Government reaps profits from drug dealer's trade

March 13, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

The state attorney general's Narco-Tax Program is designed to aggressively investigate and prosecute drug dealers for their profits as well as for their violations of narcotics laws.

Judging from the case of Levi James Green Jr. of Joppa, the program initiated in 1989 by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. is paying dividends.

Green, 53, of Dembytown Road was sentenced to six years in prison March 4 in Harford Circuit Court on charges of money laundering, failure to file a state income tax return for 1991 and distribution of marijuana.

Green received a verbal rebuke from Judge William O. Carr after implying police had erred in charging him with drug distribution.

Judge Carr called the defendant a liar, telling him that he was "scum."

When Green was charged in April 1992 after a state police raid on his home, then in the 600 block of Harbor Oak Drive in Edgewood, the Maryland State Police Asset Forfeiture Unit seized his $100,000 house, a 1992 Chrysler New Yorker, a 1992 Chevrolet Corsica, a 1990 Chevrolet pickup, a 1986 Honda motorcycle, a 19-foot 1991 Centra cabin cruiser and a trailer for the boat.

They also seized $58,000 and about 8 pounds of marijuana worth $15,000.

Evidence showed Green had paid cash for the house, but his Northwest Baltimore auto body and fender shop did not do the amount of business to fund such a purchase.

Investigators also determined that Green had a taxable income of $144,000 in 1991, but did not file a state tax return.

Ultimately, state and local taxpayers benefit from the forfeitures of property owned by drug dealers, said Christopher J. Romano, assistant attorney general who prosecuted Green.

What happens to the items seized under the forfeiture laws depends on which enforcement agency is involved, Mr. Romano said. Money, for example, may be seized by federal, state or local agencies.

If the forfeiture is contested, the money is held until the matter is resolved in court.

If the seizure is upheld, the money goes to the federal, state or local treasury for general use.

Sometimes, the seized assets are divided and shared by the jurisdictions involved.

Houses may be sold at public auction, subject to any liens, Mr. Romano said. The net profit would then end up in the federal, state or local treasury.

Automobiles seized under forfeiture laws are similarly disposed of, except that police jurisdictions frequently use them for brief periods as undercover cars, he said.

"It's ironic that some police cars were once driven by drug dealers," Mr. Romano said.

In some cases, the money from selling forfeited items may be targeted for specific uses, such as anti-drug education, or to enable undercover investigators to make drug purchases on the street, he said.

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