By Cathy Locke
Collections in civil and criminal judgments for the Eastern District of California, which includes Sacramento, are up significantly, the U.S. attorney said.
Collections nationwide by the U.S. Department of Justice reached and all-time high in fiscal year 2010, said Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. attorney in Sacramento.
In for the Eastern District, collections in criminal judgments in the 2010 fiscal year were 29 percent higher than the approximately $2.9 million collected in fiscal year 2009, and collections on civil judgments were up 40 percent from the $59.9 million collected in fiscal 2009, Wagner said in a news release.
The Eastern District runs roughly from Bakersfield from the Oregon border.
Collections fall into four categories: collections on restitution orders, penalties and assessments in criminal cases; collections on judgments for damages, penalties and debts in civil cases; collections on criminal forfeiture judgments; and collections on civil forfeiture judgments.
Apart from forfeiture, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District collected $103,635,447 on criminal and civil judgments in fiscal year 2010. Of this amount, $4,146,245 was collected in restitution, fines, penalties and assessments in criminal cases, and $99,489,202 was collected in damages, statutory penalties and debts in civil cases.
Major civil collections included $67.5 million on a settlement of a whistle-blower suit under the False Claims Act and more than $27 million on settlements in tort cases arising from wildfires on National Forest land, officials reported. Criminal collections included $2,520,981 on restitution orders to compensate victims of crimes like fraud and embezzlement.
In addition, the office collected $4,344,632 in criminal and civil forfeiture actions in fiscal 2010, representing nearly a 25 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
From the forfeited funds, the office was able to compensate crime victims for their losses, with $2,214,634 returned to crime victims through the Justice Department's restoration and remission programs, an increase of more than $1 million from the previous year.
An additional $1,261,242 was delivered to cooperating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies through the department's "equitable sharing" program, for use in criminal investigations, training, detention facilities and other law enforcement purposes, officials said.
The funds described consist of actual funds collected, not judgment amounts. The total of approximately $108 million recovered by attorneys in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District in collection and forfeiture actions in fiscal year 2010 represents at least six times the operating budget for the entire office during the year, Wagner said.
"Our responsibility is not only to convict those who violate federal law," Wagner said in a written statement, "but also to ensure that crime does not pay, that victims receive the restitution they are due, and that the United States recovers funds that it is fairly owed."
The U.S. Attorneys' offices are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the United States and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. Department of Justice statistics indicate that of the $6.68 billion recovered in such cases in fiscal 2010, the amount collected in criminal actions totaled $2.84 billion in restitution, criminal fines and felony assessments.
Restitution is paid directly to the victim, but criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department's Crime Victims' Fund, which distributes the monies to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
Approximately $3.84 billion was collected in civil actions nationwide. Officials said the largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct, or collected fines imposed on corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws.
Civil debts also were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service and the Small Business Administration.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.