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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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MAGIC BULLET FOR THE WAR ON DRUGS ?

We have entered the 21st Century at a time when the drug cartels and organized crime rival the power of the nation-states of this world.  Each decade of the 20th Century saw how the traffic in illicit drugs brought untold wealth and power to those who gain from the enslavement of millions.  The arrogance that goes with such power nauseates the senses.  The drug cartels have acquired such wealth that they can export their power and influence worldwide.  Assassination of political figures, judicial officials and police has become a weapon in their arsenal of greed. 

When we consider such wealth and power, we must realize that such a threat to the order to the body politic and very existence of nation-states could not exist without the cooperation of the financial and corporate organizations that have become global institutions.  The money laundering of profits from the international drug dealing is a disgrace.  When the financial profits of international banks and corporations are influenced by drug cartels bloated with illegal money, our very survival as a free nation is at stake. 

The corruption of our political and judicial figures as well as our law enforcement officials is an ever- present threat.  When we consider the destruction of the political institutions of some Latin American countries, we can see the pattern for our own national decline. 

Those of us in law enforcement are eyewitnesses to the end product of the international drug cartels.  We see the human misery and destruction of lives resulting in the sale and distribution of narcotics.  Cops see the reality of the evil of the drug trade.  They witness their fellow cops slain in the so-called "War on Drugs".  The ranks of cops standing at attention for the "Inspector's Funeral" of men and women of the NYPD killed in the line of duty touches the souls of the honest citizens of America.  The bagpipes play the hymn "Amazing Grace" and the slain cop is entombed forever.  A grateful City of New York presents medals and flags to the family of the hero, but how do we avenge the deaths of these officers? 

When law enforcement engages in a real war on drugs, will there be casualties?

Robert M. Stutman, former Chief of the New York Office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration wrote an interesting book that will be featured as the "book of the month" for February, 2001.  He recounts the murder of DEA Agent Everett E. Hatcher in a deserted section of Staten Island in February 1989.  Stutman writes:

"Gus (Constabile "Gus" Farace) seemed to be talking more to himself than to Dominick.  By the time Dominick drove past St. Joseph's by the Sea, a Roman Catholic School on Hylan Boulevard, Gus had made up his mind.

"Fuck it, I think I'll kill him," Gus said.

Dominick saw the church in the background as he turned his head to see his cousin's expression.  The look in Gus's eyes said he wasn't kidding.

"You gotta be out of your mind," Dominick screamed.

They were almost halfway back to the meeting spot. Hatcher was right behind them.

"I'll kill him at the next light," Gus replied.

"You can't just kill somebody at a fucking red light in the middle of Hylan Boulevard right in the middle of a neighborhood where everybody knows you.  Gus, you can't just clip somebody at a red light. Are you nuts, are you nuts, cuz?"

Dominick was so agitated that he found his head was hitting the roof of the van and his palms were sweating.

"It's okay cuz, relax. I'll take care of everything," Gus said.

They continued their drive back to the original meeting spot without mentioning murder again.  By the time they arrived, Dominick thought his cousin had changed his mind
Dominick stopped the van in the middle of the road.  Hatcher squeezed his Buick onto the right shoulder, rolled down the window and tilted his head up to talk with Gus, who was leaning out the passenger window of the van. Gus extended his left hand out the window, pointing toward the service road of the highway beneath the underpass, as if giving the "Colonel" (Hatcher) directions.
Within seconds, Gus had his other hand under the bulky leather jacket, pulled out the powerful Ruger handgun and fired three shots.

"Let's go," he shouted and Dominick stepped on the gas.  As they lurched away at high speed, Gus without bothering to lean out the window, stuck his arm back out and fired a final shot. It too struck Hatcher."

Robert M. Stutman and Richard Esposito, "Dead on Delivery", Inside the Drug Wars, Straight From the Street, Warner Books, New York 1992, Chapter One, pages 15-16


The Cayman Islands are located in the West Indies in the beautiful Caribbean Sea.  They are a dependency of Great Britain. Tourism and international banking form the backbone of the economy.  They have a resident population of slightly more than 25,000.  Members of the NYPD who are close friends recently visited the Cayman Islands. As they told me of the enormous villas that have been constructed on these tiny islands, I thought of a book entitled: "America, Who really Pays the Taxes?" written by Bartlett and Steele.  I remembered a passage in that book:

".....you might want to ponder the purpose of the following classified advertisement, which appeared in the 1993 issue of The Washington Lawyer, the official journal of the District of Columbia bar:

Call the Caymans or anywhere else (US, Canada) with no phone bill record.  Traceless touch-tone telephoning via 1-900-STOPPER (786-7737).  Free information: 800-235-1414. Private Lines, Inc. (operated by D.C. Bar member)."

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, America: Who Really Pays the Taxes, (New York, Simon & Schuster 1994) pp. 203-204.

The authors went on to say:

"The Cayman Islands are so dedicated to maintaining their reputation for financial secrecy that over the years they have resisted attempts by the U.S. Government to break down the confidentiality barriers.  Back in the 1970s, when U.S. tax authorities inquired about certain accounts, the Cayman government responded by passing the Confidential (Relationships) Preservation Law. That law made it a crime for a local bank officer or other official to divulge information relating to a customer or client account."

Ibid., pp. 206-207.

I mentioned the Cayman Islands not to single them out for criticism, but to illustrate how financial records are being protected in from the laws of the nation-states of the International Community.  When we consider how the past policies of Switzerland have resulted in lawsuits by victims of the Holocaust of World War II, such secrecy of the financial records by legitimate governments is puzzling.

That brings us to the issue at hand. Is it possible that forfeiture of the proceeds of crime the "Magic Bullet" that will enable the legitimate governments of the world to fight the untold wealth of the drug cartels? Do we already have such a weapon readily available?

In 1970, Congress enacted the Organized Crime Control Act. One section of that Act is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) section. Strike Forces were set up comprised of Assistant US Attorneys with investigative staffs comprised of agents from the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Postal Inspection Service, Bureau of ATF, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, US Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, US Marshal's Service, and the Security and Exchange Commission. State and local personnel were also to be part of the Strike Force.   This Act enabled the US government to seize the assets of organized criminals.

Asset and civil forfeiture procedures were put into the law that enables us to destroy the ability of those criminals to profit from their enterprises.  This law has been used effectively since its enactment.

The law has been attacked on many fronts.  The wealth and power that has been accumulated by international criminals is arrayed against this law. They know that this law will someday be used to seize the fruits of their criminality. When we have elected political leaders with the "right stuff", we may see just how powerful a weapon asset and civil forfeiture can be.

New York City recently adopted a policy of forfeiting the vehicles driven by persons arrested for drunk driving. That policy came under heavy criticism.  A suit was brought by a person who had been arrested and was represented by the New York City Civil Liberties Union. The New York State Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the program. Now, the same asset and civil forfeiture procedures will be extended to acts of reckless driving and excessive speeding. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth by many in society, however, the saving of lives and the restoration of safety and sanity to the streets of New York City is supported many others in our town.

This is just a small example of how New York City has used seizure of assets to deal with criminality. Eli B. Silverman writes:

"The NYPD Legal Bureau responded with a pilot program called the Civil Enforcement Initiative, constituted as the Civil Enforcement Unit (CEU).
Working closely with the precinct commanders, CEU attorneys identified recurring crime and disorder issues and then tailored criminal and civil remedies for each problem. Community trouble spots such as indoor drug markets and prostitution locations were closed for up to a year through nuisance-abatement legal proceedings.  These closures clearly diminished illegal activity and deprived landlords of rental income.  The padlock and nuisance-abatement laws closed gambling locations.  Street prostitution was addressed through Operation Losing Proposition, whereby female undercover officers posed as street-walking prostitutes and engaged prospective patrons in a conversation that resulted in the arrest of the patron, or "john". Civil enforcement attorneys accompanied the police to evaluate the legal basis for the forfeiture of the would-be customer's vehicle, resulting in arrests and the seizure of automobiles."

Eli B. Silverman, NYPD Battles Crime, Innovative Strategies in Policing, Northeastern University Press, Boston 1999, Chapter 3, page 63

The strategy of using civil forfeiture became a "magic bullet" when it was partnered with the COMPSTAT (compare statistics) meetings of the NYPD.  As Professor Silverman writes:

"The CEI (Civil Enforcement Initiative), on the other hand, grew out of the seeds of reform that were planted before 1994, and later found more fertile soil.  The CEI embodies NYPD's shift away from maintaining existing crime levels, and toward decisively dropping them instead.  Stability no long is cherished as the prime objective.
Most important, the CEU shares Compstat's information base and is orientation toward problem solving and future results.  In 1994, early in the new Giuliani-Bratton administration, the civil enforcement attorneys presented their agenda to CEI (Civil Enforcement Initiative) advocate Anemone, who was then the new Chief of Patrol and a former Bronx divisional commander. The attorneys projected a large map that highlighted precinct problems (such as bodegas selling beer to minors) by color.  Key words (such as "nuisance abatement") indicated the appropriate strategy.  This was a novel convergence of ideas and approaches - mapping, analyzing problems, and strategizing. Compstat and the CEI are more than compatible and harmonious, THEY FEED OFF ONE ANOTHER, and they NEED EACH OTHER TO WORK."

Ibid. Chapter 6, pages 143-144

These measures pale in comparison to what is needed to deal with the international drug trade. However, let us remember that great accomplishments can begin with such efforts.   These asset and civil forfeiture programs are showing us the way to go in dealing with the larger problems of criminality. They are similar to the "Fixing Broken Windows" Theory.  If we deal effectively with the quality of life issues that impact on the daily lives of our citizens, then we can flex our muscles and deal more effectively with the more serious problems.  The court decisions that establish the case law for civil forfeiture of assets enable competent political leaders to punish the drug dealers in the only language that they understand. We can seize their wealth and profits. Make no mistake. The drug cartels, those that profit from their enterprises and their puppet legal advisors will make every effort to deter civil forfeiture. They know that the legal seizure of their assets is the greatest threat to their wealth.  It may well prove to be the "magic bullet" in dealing with the organized criminals both here and abroad.  The destruction of the illicit drug industry may begin in the same way that crime was reduced in the City of New York. When we seize the cars and money of drug users who purchase drugs, we threaten the wealth of the drug-lords too.


Some argue that governments can abuse forfeiture power.  There is some truth to that.  However, our courts and our elected officials must be held accountable for how that power is exercised. The abuse of power is a much lesser threat to our liberties than the threat of the international drug cartels that can corrupt officials with bribes and terrorism.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

When visiting the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in Washington D.C., visitors will see the name of DEA Agent Everett Emerson Hatcher inscribed on the marble wall on panel 42W, line 9.

Copyright © 2001 Edward D. Reuss

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