DA presents $30,000 from forfeitures to county
Money and drugs seized in a police raid in Donora earlier this year
Just days after Washington County published its 2014 preliminary budget and just days before a scheduled series of budget hearings, District Attorney Gene Vittone Thursday gave the county treasury a $30,000 infusion of cash from forfeitures in drug cases.
“Fighting drugs is a community bipartisan effort,” Vittone said. “We’re generating money that goes back to the taxpayers.”
In addition to funding the drug task force, money from forfeitures can also be used to educate the public about the consequences of drug abuse.
“I think it’s something positive for his office and the county taxpayers,” Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, a retired state trooper. “This goes back to fighting drugs.”
The task force, which includes undercover officers, is funded by the state attorney general’s office, Washington County taxpayers and forfeitures of property seized from drug dealers.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Zupancic has filed forfeiture petitions in about 90 cases. State law allows both district attorneys and the state attorney general to not only seize contraband, such as drugs which are illegal to possess, but property associated with illegal activities.
Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance Forfeiture Act allows equipment such as scales and vehicles or homes from which drugs are sold to be seized, because these are considered tools used to further a drug transaction or things of value obtained as a result of a drug transaction.
Amendments to the act in 1994 and 2006 also permit the forfeiture of property purchased from the proceeds of drug activity when a defendant can show no legitimate income. There is a similar federal law.
The district attorney’s drug task force in 2012 cost $145,000 to operate, and Vittone, before Thursday had reimbursed the county $52,368. The commissioners do not expect the task force to break even. The drug task force of Vittone’s predecessor, Steven Toprani, was $103,295 in the red when Toprani left office at the end of 2011, but the commissioners wiped the slate clean in advance of Vittone taking office.