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County comptroller finds no irregularities with Nassau seizure funds

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is seen on Oct. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Police Department has properly maintained $37 million in funds seized from criminals in accordance with federal guidelines, an audit released Monday found.

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos said his office's audit of the police department's asset forfeiture funds from 2011 through 2014 found its uses "appropriate and consistent with rules and regulations."

The audit found only two "minor" recording discrepancies. The police department's 23-year-old Asset Forfeiture & Intelligence Unit, which as part of its work assists state and federal agencies with investigations and receives a portion of the assets seized, maintains the funds.

The audit recommended the department amend its annual federal filings for 2011 and 2012 to include two expenditures and to keep more detailed inventories of purchased items, such as cameras and laptops. The department agreed to the recommendation.

"To be honest with you, I was a little taken aback there were no issues found," Maragos said in an interview. "So I probed. That being the case, I was very pleased they were able to explain all their expenditures and there were no misuses of funds. . . . The police department, in terms of handling the funds, they're doing a very good job. They're very meticulous and very sensitive to public perception."

The police department has designated about $25 million of its fund to the design and construction of a new police academy and training center -- which also would house its intelligence unit -- slated to break ground later this year.

In 2013, according to the audit, the department spent $4.3 million of its asset forfeiture monies -- 27 percent, or $1.17 million, went to new uniforms and 24 percent, or $1.04 million, went to electronic surveillance equipment.

The largest single expenditure was $304,999 for a "crisis negotiation vehicle" in 2011, the audit found. From 2011 to 2013, the department spent $372,931 on travel and training expenses, including hotel, airfare, vehicle rental and meals. The audit found "no issues" with the spending of that money.

The forfeiture money also has funded the department's police academies for civilians and youth and criminal activity deterrence programs, such as its gun buybacks, Shot Spotter and the DART program, which pays for DWI checkpoints.

In a statement, police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack said: "We are pleased the comptroller's review of the Nassau County Police Department asset forfeiture funds indicates that federal justice and treasury funds are being properly expended within federal guidelines to improve policing . . . We remain transparent and compliant with the Department of Justice equitable sharing guidelines."


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