Madison County and Pontoon Beach reap drug bust proceeds

More than $3 million recovered from a Pontoon Beach drug bust -- the largest cash forfeiture in the history of the Southern District of Illinois -- was doled out to the Pontoon Beach Police Department, Madison County State's Attorney's Office and a federal agency on Wednesday. Edward E. McNally, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said $3,294,021 was recovered from a tractor trailer that was blocking traffic at the Flying J Truck Stop on March 11, 2005. The investigation which resulted in the forfeiture began when rookie Pontoon Beach Police Officer John Simmons was dispatched to the truck stop to respond toa complaint from a clerk that a tractor-trailer was blocking the drivewayof the business. After becoming suspicious while questioning the truck driver and observing his demeanor, Simmons requested and received consent to search the vehicle. Most of the currency recoevered–primarily $20 bills–was packed in boxes found in the trailer; a portion was concealed in the tractor. It took a team of 10 officers almost 12 hours to recover and count the currency. Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge took the necessary steps to have the moneyturned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for administrative forfeitureas drug proceeds. Neither the driver nor any other person claimed an interest in the cash during theforfeiture proceedings, and the funds were declared forfeited pursuant to the provisions of federal law. According to McNally, the cash will be used to administer the federal Asset Forfeiture Program and for law enforcement purposes. Twenty percent of the proceeds are retained by the federal government and applied to the costs of administration associated with the Asset Forfeiture Program. Of the remaining money, $2,371,997.39 will be distributed to the Pontoon Beach Police Department and $263,555.27 will be distributed to the Madison County State's Attorney's Office. Distribution is expected to be completed by the end of the month. McNally said: "The good instincts and professionalism of Officer John Simmons shows once again how on any given day one man or woman can make a profound difference, for themselves, their department and their entire community." According to Department of Justice guidelines, the distributed funds must be used for law enforcement purposes. The funds can only be used to increase and cannot supplant an agency's appropriated operating budget.

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