By Paul Ogden
Ogden on Politics
The Indianapolis Star reports:
Officials are looking to hang on to the more than $3.4 million confiscated last fall during raids at dozens of Mexican restaurants in Indianapolis and other locations across the state.
In a civil forfeiture lawsuit filed Friday, the Tippecanoe County prosecutor's office accuses El Rodeo's owners and other parties in the businesses of obtaining the money illegally. Therefore, the suit claims, the defendants should forfeit the money and return it to the criminal justice system.
Police across the state served search warrants Nov. 18 during raids at restaurants and homes. El Rodeo establishments in Indianapolis, Avon, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Richmond, Fortville and Mooresville were searched.
Other Mexican-themed restaurants also were raided, including El Jaripeo eateries in Indianapolis, Lebanon, Frankfort and Zionsville; Los Toros restaurants in Indianapolis; and three La Carreta Restaurant & Bars, in Schererville, Vincennes and Merrillville.
The Tippecanoe County lawsuit alleges that perjury and forgery occurred through falsified tax documents, business formation documents, employment records and tax returns.
|Is Pat Harrington breaking the law on civil forfeiture?|
Nonetheless, under Indiana law, law enforcement is only entitled to keep civil forfeiture proceeds to cover the cost of the action. The balance is to go to the Common School Fund. My research updated a couple years ago, showed that officials in Tippecanoe, Marion, Hendricks, Madison and Morgan counties, all places where these raids took place, are simply pocketing 100% of the money in contravention of the law. The article does, however, note a raid took place in Richmond, Indiana. In that county, the Wayne County Prosecutor was one of the few prosecutors in the state who made it a point to determine law enforcement costs in civil forfeiture actions in accordance with the law and to cut a check to the Common School Fund for the balance.
About Paul Ogden: I have been an attorney since the Fall of 1987. I have worked in every branch of government, including a stint as a Deputy Attorney General, a clerk for a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals, and I have worked three sessions at the Indiana State Senate. During my time as a lawyer, I have worked not only in various government positions, but also in private practice as a trial attorney handing an assortment of mostly civil cases. I have also been politically active and run this blog in an effort to add my voice to those calling for reform.