By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Good things come to those who wait, and last week the Police Department was awarded its share of federally-seized funds, a check for more than $500,000 that resulted from an investigation that began in 2008.
Public Safety Director James Nardone said the amount — part of more than $2 million seized from an illegal cash smuggling arrest — was the largest forfeiture he could remember.
“It’s the largest amount I’ve seen in my time here,” Nardone said.
Bordering the Detroit River, Trenton police routinely work with Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs. Nardone said two officers are assigned to a Homeland Security Task Force in a partnership that began in 2004.
In 2008, a Trenton officer assigned to the task force was one of the first responders on the scene when a Canadian citizen — Eskender Mafarani — was apprehended trying to smuggle the cash into the United States near the Ambassador Bridge. Trenton provided testimony, transportation of the defendant, collection of evidence and witness interviews. Mafarani was convicted in 2009, sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit his claim to the assets.
The award was presented during Monday’s city council meeting by Marlon Miller, head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit. Miller said Trenton police played “a key role” in the investigation, and that the partnership demonstrates the value of multi-departmental cooperation.
Forfeited funds and assets are distributed according to Homeland Security’s program that applies to assets obtained through criminal activity.
Bulk cash smuggling ranks among Homeland Security’s top priorities. Between 2003 and 2013 more than 2,300 people were arrested for cash smuggling, and more than $547 million seized by federal agents.
Nardone said no final decisions have been made on use of the money, a total of $524,007.13. Previous forfeitures have been used to purchase patrol vehicles, rifles, handguns and to construct the department firing range.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])