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Asset Forfeiture Handbook, ICE, 2010

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Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Investigations

Asset Forfeiture
Handbook
HSI HB 10-04

June 30, 2010

OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Foreword
The Asset Forfeiture Handbook provides a uniform source of national policies,
procedures, responsibilities, guidelines, and controls to be followed by U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents
assigned to Asset Identification and Removal Groups (AIRGs) when conducting asset
seizure and forfeiture investigations as part of this specialized investigative program.
This Handbook contains instructions and guidance to help ensure uniformity and
operational consistency among all HSI field offices. Oversight for the national asset
forfeiture program within HSI resides with the Unit Chief, Asset Forfeiture Unit,
Investigative Services Division, Investigative Programs. (Note: On June 9, 2010, the ICE
Offices of Investigations (OI), International Affairs, and Intelligence were realigned
under HSI. Throughout this Handbook, documents issued prior to the June 9, 2010
realignment are referred to by their original titles, e.g., the OI (instead of “HSI”) Case
Management Handbook.)
The Asset Forfeiture Handbook supersedes U.S. Customs Service (USCS) OI Special
Agent Handbook Chapter 25, entitled, “Asset Removal Process,” dated May 20, 1992;
Operations Instruction 274 entitled, “Seizure and forfeiture of conveyances” (undated);
and all directives, memoranda, bulletins, manuals, handbooks, and other guidelines and
procedures relating to AIRG case coordination and management issued by the former
USCS or INS. (See Appendix A for a detailed list of the documents superseded by this
Handbook.)
The Asset Forfeiture Handbook is an internal policy of HSI and is not intended to confer
any right or benefit on any private person or party. If disclosure of this Handbook or any
portion of it is demanded in any judicial or administrative proceeding, the HSI
Information Disclosure Unit, Mission Support, as well as the appropriate ICE Counsel
and/or U.S. Attorney, should be consulted so that appropriate measures can be taken to
invoke privileges against disclosure. This Handbook contains information which may be
exempt from disclosure to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, Title 5,
United States Code, Section 552(b), and protected from disclosure in civil discovery
pursuant to the law enforcement privilege. Any further request for disclosure of this
Handbook or information contained herein should be referred to the HSI Information
Disclosure Unit.
The HSI Policy Unit is responsible for coordinating the development and issuance of HSI
policy. All suggested changes or updates to this Handbook should be submitted to the
HSI Policy Unit which will coordinate all needed revisions with the Asset Forfeiture
Unit.

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ASSET FORFEITURE
HANDBOOK
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. PURPOSE AND SCOPE........................................................................................1
Chapter 2. AUTHORITIES/REFERENCES ..........................................................................1
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2.1
2.2
2.3

Federal Forfeiture Statutes...........................................................................1
Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture Guides and Guidelines ......3
Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering
Section Manuals...........................................................................................3

Chapter 3. DEFINITIONS........................................................................................................4
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3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6
3.7
3.8
3.9
3.10
3.11
3.12
3.13
3.14
3.15
3.16
3.17

Equitable Sharing.........................................................................................4
Encumbrance................................................................................................4
Facilitation ...................................................................................................4
Final Order of Forfeiture..............................................................................4
Interlocutory Sale.........................................................................................4
Lien ..............................................................................................................4
Lis Pendens ..................................................................................................4
Net Equity ....................................................................................................5
Payment in Lieu of Forfeiture......................................................................5
Post-and-Walk..............................................................................................5
Preliminary Order of Forfeiture ...................................................................5
Pre-Seizure Analysis....................................................................................5
Proceeds .......................................................................................................5
Seizure Threshold ........................................................................................5
Specified Unlawful Activity ........................................................................6
Torrens System ............................................................................................6
Turnover Order ............................................................................................6

Chapter 4. RESPONSIBILITIES.............................................................................................6
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4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6

Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations ..............6
Unit Chief, Asset Forfeiture Unit.................................................................6
Program Manager, Asset Forfeiture Unit.....................................................6
Special Agents in Charge.............................................................................7
AIRG Group Supervisors.............................................................................7
Special Agents .............................................................................................8

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Chapter 5. NATIONAL AIRG CONCEPT.............................................................................8
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5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6

Purpose and Benefits of AIRGs...................................................................8
AIRG Mission Statements ...........................................................................8
National Code of Professional Conduct for Asset Forfeiture ......................9
Office and Project Codes ...........................................................................10
Headquarters Oversight .............................................................................10
Relationship with TEOAF .........................................................................11

Chapter 6. AIRG GROUP STRUCTURE.............................................................................11
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6.1
6.2
6.3
6.4

Structure.....................................................................................................11
Background and Training ..........................................................................11
Tenure of AIRG Personnel ........................................................................12
Management Support .................................................................................12

Chapter 7. GENERAL DUTIES OF AN AIRG....................................................................13
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7.1
7.2
7.3
7.4

Overall Critical Points to Remember.........................................................13
Mandates ....................................................................................................13
Liaison........................................................................................................14
Knowledge of Forfeiture Law and Procedures ..........................................14

Chapter 8. CASE MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES ............................................................14
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8.1
8.2
8.3
8.4
8.5
8.6
8.7
8.8
8.9
8.10
8.11
8.12

Proactive Case Development .....................................................................14
Case Referrals ............................................................................................15
AIRG Case Determination and Coordination ............................................16
Collaboration on Search Warrants .............................................................17
Opening an AIRG Case .............................................................................17
Inclusion of Originating Case Numbers ....................................................18
Initial Report of Investigation....................................................................18
Interim Reports of Investigation ................................................................18
Case Closing and Disposition ....................................................................19
Project Codes .............................................................................................20
National AIRG Project Code .....................................................................20
Individual AIRG Project Codes .................................................................20

Chapter 9. INVESTIGATIVE STEPS...................................................................................21
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9.1
9.2
9.3
9.4
9.5

General Guidelines for AIRG Investigations.............................................21
Real Property .............................................................................................22
Facilitation .................................................................................................22
Proceeds .....................................................................................................23
Possible Defenses Against Forfeiture ........................................................24

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9.6
9.7
9.8
9.9

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9.10
9.11
9.12
9.13
9.14
9.15
9.16
9.17
9.18

Evaluation of a Property Independent of a Pre-Seizure Analysis..............24
Using Online Real Estate Information.......................................................24
Requesting Mortgage and Escrow Documents ..........................................25
Investigative Steps When the Target of the Investigation Is Not the
Legal Owner...............................................................................................26
Requesting a Pre-Seizure Analysis ............................................................26
Receipt of Pre-Seizure Information from the Real Property Contractor ...27
Descriptions of Available Pre-Seizure Analysis Services .........................28
Environmental Concerns............................................................................30
Coordination with the Assistant U.S. Attorney .........................................30
Filing of Lis Pendens and Service of Notice .............................................30
Maintenance of Real Property Files...........................................................31
Financial Seizures ......................................................................................32
Seizures of Businesses ...............................................................................33

Chapter 10. PRE-SEIZURE PLANNING .............................................................................33
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10.1
10.2
10.3
10.4
10.5

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10.6
10.7
10.8
10.9

What is Being Seized? ...............................................................................34
Why is the Asset Being Seized? ................................................................34
How is the Asset Going to Be Seized? ......................................................35
Calculation of Net Equity/Avoiding Liability Seizures.............................36
Special Considerations When Planning the Seizure of a Commercial
Enterprise ...................................................................................................36
Seizure Thresholds.....................................................................................36
Pre-Seizure Summary Report ....................................................................37
Seizures of Businesses ...............................................................................37
Adopted Seizures .......................................................................................37

Chapter 11. TYPES OF FORFEITURES .............................................................................38
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11.1
11.2
11.3
11.4
11.4.1
11.4.2

Administrative Forfeiture...........................................................................38
Civil Forfeiture...........................................................................................39
Criminal Forfeiture ....................................................................................39
Parallel Proceedings...................................................................................40
Civil............................................................................................................40
Criminal .....................................................................................................41

Chapter 12. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS IN AIRG INVESTIGATIONS...................41
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12.1
12.2
12.3
12.4
12.5

Criminal Cases ...........................................................................................41
Plea Agreements ........................................................................................42
Financial Affidavits ...................................................................................43
Out of District Actions...............................................................................43
Receiverships and Unique Court Orders....................................................44

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12.6
12.7
12.8
12.9
12.10

Restraining Orders .....................................................................................44
International ...............................................................................................44
Joint Investigations ....................................................................................45
Retention of Seized Property .....................................................................45
Notice to Property Owners of Illegal Activity...........................................46

Chapter 13. SEIZURE PROCESSING, SEACATS ENTRY, AND
ADMINISTRATIVE GUIDELINES FOR REAL PROPERTY
FORFEITURES ..................................................................................................46
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13.1
13.2
13.3
13.4
13.5

Real Property Pre-Seizure Planning Meeting ............................................46
Pre-Seizure Viewing of the Property .........................................................46
Post-and-Walk............................................................................................47
Non-Custodial Property Considerations ....................................................48
Payment of Real Property Liens ................................................................49

Chapter 14. FINES, PENALTIES AND FORFEITURES...................................................49
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14.1

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14.2
14.3
14.4

Interaction Between the COTR, the Contract Property Manager,
and FP&F ...................................................................................................49
Responsibilities of Seizing Special Agents................................................50
Coordination ..............................................................................................51
Using SEACATS to Consign Property to the Real Property Contractor...51

Chapter 15. SEACATS INCIDENT REPORTS ...................................................................54
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15.1
15.2
15.3
15.4

Preparation of a SEACATS Incident Report .............................................54
Investigations Involving Multiple Seizures ...............................................55
Updating the Pre-Seizure Incident Report for Real Property ....................55
Payments in Lieu of Forfeiture ..................................................................56

Chapter 16. EQUITABLE SHARING...................................................................................57
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16.1
16.2
16.3
16.4
16.5

Approval Authority....................................................................................57
Filing Instructions ......................................................................................57
Filing Instructions for International Agencies ...........................................58
Sharing and Real Property .........................................................................58
Reverse Sharing .........................................................................................59

Chapter 17. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS INVOLVING CONTRACTORS
WORKING WITH THE AIRGs .......................................................................59
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17.1
17.2

Contract......................................................................................................59
Contractor Access to TECS and Grand Jury Materials .............................60

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17.3
17.4

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17.5
17.6
17.7

Testimony ..................................................................................................60
Interaction Between the AIRG Group Supervisor and Contract
Employees..................................................................................................60
Work Schedule...........................................................................................61
Contractor Performance Awards................................................................61
Training and Travel....................................................................................61

APPENDIX
Appendix A
Appendix B

Superseded Documents............................................................................ A-i
Acronyms................................................................................................. B-i

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ASSET FORFEITURE
HANDBOOK

Chapter 1. PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The Asset Forfeiture Handbook establishes policies and procedures to be used by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special
Agents (SAs) when conducting asset forfeiture investigations within the scope of the HSI Asset
Identification and Removal Group (AIRG) program.
Any HSI-initiated seizure and/or forfeiture of evidence and/or assets must also conform to the
policies and procedures set forth in the legacy U.S. Customs Service, “Seized Asset Management
and Enforcement Procedures Handbook” (SAMEPH) (Customs Issuance System Handbook
(HB) 4400-01A), dated January 2002, or as updated. The SAMEPH contains specific policies,
procedures, and guidelines to be followed during the pre-seizure, seizure, storage, and forfeiture
stages of asset removal, including rules concerning proper documentation of seizures and
forfeitures, interaction with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Fines,
Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F), and compliance with the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act
(CAFRA) of 2000. SAs contemplating seizures of vehicles, monetary instruments, financial
accounts, real property, or other assets should use this Handbook only in conjunction with the
SAMEPH.

Chapter 2. AUTHORITIES/REFERENCES
2.1

Federal Forfeiture Statutes
A. Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), Chapter 46, “Forfeiture,” contains general
forfeiture provisions under federal law:
1) 18 U.S.C. § 981, “Civil Forfeiture,” and 18 U.S.C. § 982, “Criminal Forfeiture.”
These statutes give a general legal basis for the civil and criminal forfeiture of
some proceeds (see Section 3.13) and for facilitating (see Section 3.3) assets, and
provide forfeiture provisions for numerous federal statutes by reference. Chief
among these are provisions for the forfeiture of property “involved in a
transaction” in violation of money laundering statutes under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956,
1957, and 1960.
2) 18 U.S.C. § 983, “General Rules for Civil Forfeiture Proceedings.” This statute
outlines procedures applicable to civil forfeitures and includes provisions of
CAFRA.

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3) 18 U.S.C. § 984, “Civil Forfeiture of Fungible Property.” This statute provides
for the civil forfeiture of fungible property (i.e., cash, monetary instruments in
bearer form, funds on deposit with a financial institution, or precious metals)
without the necessity of tracing the specific funds involved in the offense as long
as the forfeiture action begins within 1 year of the offense.
4) 18 U.S.C. § 985, “Civil Forfeiture of Real Property.” This statute establishes the
requirement that forfeitures of real property must be judicial (as opposed to
administrative), and outlines the procedures for filing and carrying out a civil
forfeiture action against a real property.
5) 18 U.S.C. § 986, “Subpoenas for Bank Records.” This statute provides a means
to subpoena bank records pursuant to civil forfeiture actions.
6) 18 U.S.C. § 1963, “Criminal Penalties.” This statute provides for the forfeiture of
any proceeds of, or property giving a defendant a source of influence over, a
racketeering enterprise, as defined by the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations (RICO)” statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 – 1968).
B. In addition to the general forfeiture provisions found in Title 18, SAs should examine
the statutes underlying the criminal investigation when planning their forfeiture
strategy. Many titles of the United States Code contain forfeiture provisions allowing
SAs to seize and forfeit assets as proceeds, for facilitation, or both. Some of the
forfeiture provisions most commonly used by SAs include, but are not limited to, the
following:
1) 8 U.S.C. § 1324(b), “Seizure and Forfeiture.” This statute provides a legal basis
and procedures for the forfeiture of proceeds of alien smuggling or conveyances
used to smuggle aliens.
2) 18 U.S.C. § 545, “Smuggling goods into the United States.” This statute contains
a forfeiture provision for merchandise introduced into the United States contrary
to law.
3) 19 U.S.C. 1595a, “Forfeitures and Other Penalties.” This statute provides for the
seizure and forfeiture of merchandise imported contrary to law, as well as for the
forfeiture of any conveyance used to import the merchandise contrary to law. It
also provides for the seizure and forfeiture of merchandise exported or sent from
the United States contrary to law.
4) 21 U.S.C. § 853, “Criminal Forfeiture,” and 21 U.S.C. § 881, “Forfeitures.”
These statutes provide for criminal and civil forfeiture, respectively, of assets
obtained as proceeds and used in the facilitation of controlled substance
violations.
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5) 31 U.S.C. § 5317, “Search and forfeiture of monetary instruments.” This statute
provides for the criminal and civil forfeiture of property involved in a violation of
the reporting requirements of the transportation of monetary instruments into or
out of the United States.
6) 31 U.S.C. § 5332(b)(2), “Forfeiture.” This statute provides for the forfeiture of
any property involved in or traceable to a bulk cash smuggling violation.
2.2

Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture Guides and Guidelines

Since HSI is a participant in the Treasury Forfeiture Fund (TFF), SAs must adhere to certain
policies and guidelines issued by the Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture (TEOAF).
The following documents, among others, are available on the Department of the Treasury
Website (http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/teoaf/):
A. “Guidelines for Treasury Forfeiture Fund Agencies on Refunds Pursuant to Court
Orders, Petitions for Remission, or Restoration Requests,” Department of the
Treasury, Office of the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, July
2008 (also known as the TEOAF “Blue Book”).
B. “Guide to Equitable Sharing for Foreign Countries and Federal, State, and Local Law
Enforcement Agencies,” Department of the Treasury, Executive Office of Asset
Forfeiture, April 2004 (also known as the TEOAF “Green Book”).
C. “Guidelines for Seized and Forfeited Property,” Department of the Treasury, Office
of the Under Secretary for Enforcement, July 2001 (also known as the TEOAF “Red
Book”).
2.3

Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section Manuals

Since any judicial forfeiture must be pursued via the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), SAs
should be aware of policies and procedures for asset forfeiture established by the Department of
Justice (DOJ), Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS). In addition to
providing DOJ policies and procedures, the following resources, found at http://www.usdoj.gov,
are also useful legal references:
A. “Selected Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes,” DOJ, AFMLS, May 2009.
B. “Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual,” DOJ, 2008.
In addition to the preceding resources, AFMLS maintains a useful library of asset forfeiture and
money laundering legal and practical reference materials on DOJ’s Law Enforcement Online
website. HSI SAs may obtain access to these materials by following the online registration
instructions located at http://www.leo.gov.
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Chapter 3. DEFINITIONS
The following definitions are provided for the purposes of this Handbook:
3.1

Equitable Sharing

Division and transfer of forfeited property, or proceeds from forfeited property, between
government agencies, based on each agency’s contributions to and participation in an
investigation.
3.2

Encumbrance

Anything that affects or limits the title of a property, e.g., liens, mortgages, easements, leases, or
restrictions.
3.3

Facilitation

Use of an asset in the commission of a crime or in furtherance of criminal or otherwise
proscribed activity.
3.4

Final Order of Forfeiture

An order entered by the court in a criminal forfeiture proceeding, following the preliminary
order of forfeiture and any ancillary proceedings, authorizing the Government to take ownership
and dispose of a property. The final order takes into account any third-party rights, as well as the
defendant’s interest in the property – known in some judicial districts as an “amended order of
forfeiture.”
3.5

Interlocutory Sale

The court-ordered sale of an asset prior to a final order or judgment of forfeiture. A court may
authorize such an action in cases where loss of market value or physical deterioration of an asset
has occurred or is imminent.
3.6

Lien

A legal claim against an asset which is used to secure a loan and must be repaid if the asset is
sold.
3.7

Lis Pendens

Latin for “suit pending.” A written notification, filed with a county recorder’s office, indicating
that a forfeiture action against the property is pending on behalf of the Government. The notice
minimizes the potential for the transfer of ownership by alerting potential buyers or lenders that
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the title of the property is in question and any purchase of the property may result in the new
owner being bound by the court decision.
3.8

Net Equity

The market value of an owner’s unencumbered interest in an asset, i.e., the difference between
the fair market value of an asset and the outstanding balance of liens against that asset.
3.9

Payment in Lieu of Forfeiture

A defendant’s voluntary substitution of a monetary payment in place of the forfeiture of a
particular asset.
3.10

Post-and-Walk

Process of delivering a warrant of arrest in rem to the owner of a real property and affixing a
copy of the warrant to the property itself. Undertaken as part of a civil forfeiture action
following the filing of a civil complaint for forfeiture.
3.11

Preliminary Order of Forfeiture

In criminal forfeiture proceedings, an order of the court, issued after the defendant is found
guilty by a jury or enters a plea of guilty, which sets forth a money judgment or directs the
defendant to surrender his or her interest in the property to the Government.
3.12

Pre-Seizure Analysis

A title search, appraisal, net equity analysis, cost/benefit analysis, and/or other services
performed by the real property contractor at the request of an AIRG following the identification
of a real property that may be subject to forfeiture.
3.13

Proceeds

Any property derived from or obtained or retained, directly or indirectly, through some form of
unlawful activity, including the gross receipts of such activity.
3.14

Seizure Threshold

The amount of net equity that a criminal must hold in an asset before an AIRG SA may
contemplate the seizure and subsequent forfeiture of that asset.

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3.15

Specified Unlawful Activity

Criminal acts that constitute predicate offenses for certain money laundering violations
contained in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957. Specified Unlawful Activities (SUAs) are listed in 18
U.S.C. § 1956(c)(7).
3.16

Torrens System

In real estate, the Torrens System is a title registration system used in some states. Under the
Torrens System, a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees title to those
included in the register. The system is an alternative to the traditional deeds system, under
which proof of ownership relies on demonstrating an unbroken chain of title back to an original
land grant or purchase.
3.17

Turnover Order

A turnover order is an authorization, obtained from the state court with jurisdiction over the
seizure, which authorizes the state or local agency to turn the seizure over to HSI for adoption.

Chapter 4. RESPONSIBILITIES
4.1

Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations

The Executive Associate Director of HSI has overall responsibility for the oversight of the
policies and procedures set forth in this Handbook.
4.2

Unit Chief, Asset Forfeiture Unit

The Unit Chief, Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), is responsible for the overall implementation of the
provisions of this Handbook for HSI and for the national administration of the AIRG program.
4.3

Program Manager, Asset Forfeiture Unit

The primary responsibilities of the Program Manager include administering the budget for the
national AIRG program and performing the duties of the Assistant Contracting Officer’s
Technical Representative (ACOTR). The Program Manager is also responsible for the general
oversight and direction of the AIRG program on a national level. Although not involved in the
AIRGs’ day-to-day tactical decisions, the Program Manager provides operational guidance to
them, particularly in the area of formal case management.
The Program Manager also contracts for commercial databases, facilitates the purchase and
distribution of supplies and equipment, coordinates training for AIRG personnel, briefs HSI

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senior management on program-related issues, and is the program’s representative at conferences
and other similar forums.
The Program Manager is the ACOTR for all contracts that are utilized to provide a variety of
support personnel for the AIRG program. The contracts are formally administered by DOJ; as a
result, the AIRG Program Manager has established Interagency Agreements with DOJ to link the
AIRG program’s needs to existing contracts in order to obtain services from the private sector.
The ACOTR is the HSI point of contact with the contract service providers.
In relation to the AIRG program, ACOTR duties include preparing the Interagency Agreements
with DOJ, interpreting certain aspects of the existing contracts, obtaining additional contractor
positions, filling vacancies, reviewing and authorizing invoices for payment, authorizing
expenditures including overtime, and acting as a liaison for any other issues between HSI and the
contract service providers.
4.4

Special Agents in Charge

Special Agents in Charge (SACs) are responsible for implementing the provisions of this
Handbook within their respective area of responsibility (AOR). SACs are also responsible for
staffing the AIRGs in their AOR with SAs who have at least 36 months of investigative
experience. They should ensure that SAs will remain assigned to the AIRG for a minimum of 24
months. SACs should also allow the AIRGs to preserve their function as separate, specialized
groups, dedicated solely to asset forfeiture responsibilities, and not commingled with other
groups or burdened with excessive collateral duties.
4.5

AIRG Group Supervisors

AIRG Group Supervisors (GSs) will ensure that SAs assigned to their AIRGs comply with the
provisions of this Handbook and remain trained and knowledgeable with respect to the most upto-date asset forfeiture laws and procedures. They must monitor the investigative activity within
their AIRGs to make certain that HSI forfeiture actions are legally and economically feasible and
meet required seizure thresholds.
The AIRG GSs should establish and maintain relationships with the other investigative groups
throughout the SAC’s AOR, promoting the expertise and benefits of the AIRG and encouraging
investigative groups of every specialization to enlist the aid of the AIRG in their casework.
AIRG GSs will be designated to act as Contracting Officer’s Technical Representatives
(COTRs) for real property contracting activities within their AOR. As COTRs, they will furnish
technical clarification, monitor contract performance, and maintain a professional relationship
with the representatives of the real property contractor. On a quarterly basis, the AIRG GSs, in
conjunction with AIRG SAs, shall perform a physical drive-by inspection of each real property
that is the subject of an HSI forfeiture action within their AOR. The inspection should verify the
condition of the property. If the condition of the property has changed, the real property
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contractor, as well as the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), should be immediately
notified of the changed condition.
The AIRG GS shall review the status of all AIRG seizures in the Seized Assets and Case
Tracking System (SEACATS), as well as the status of all AIRG investigations, during
supervisory case reviews. The GS should ensure that all seizures and forfeiture actions are
progressing in the most efficient and timely manner possible.
4.6

Special Agents

SAs are responsible for complying with the provisions of this Handbook.

Chapter 5. NATIONAL AIRG CONCEPT
5.1

Purpose and Benefits of AIRGs

The seizure and ultimate forfeiture of criminally derived assets has been identified as a valuable
law enforcement tool that can be utilized to permanently disable criminal enterprises that operate
in the United States and abroad. Federal forfeiture combats crime not only by depriving
criminals of their ill-gotten gains, but also by putting forfeited assets back into the fight against
crime. The assets to be targeted are accumulated through successful criminal activities,
including, but not limited to: international money laundering; bulk cash smuggling; contraband
smuggling; human smuggling; human trafficking; sexual exploitation of children; commercial,
identity, benefit, and document fraud; and the illegal export of arms and strategic technologies.
These violations are among the SUAs (see Section 3.15) for which ICE has been designated as
the primary investigative agency.
In concert with the criminal prosecution of the defendants, the primary responsibility of an
AIRG is to target the assets of violators within all HSI core areas of investigation for seizure and
forfeiture. Traditionally, this action was initiated after the arrest of the subjects of the
investigation. Ideally, assets should be seized as soon as practical to prevent their liquidation.
With the creation of specialized asset removal teams, the seizure and forfeiture of criminally
derived assets has become part of the ongoing investigative strategy.
There are two primary benefits to be gained through the utilization of the AIRG concept. First,
AIRGs develop a higher level of expertise in this complex field of investigation, thus providing a
more thorough and efficient impact in the area of asset removal. Second, this allows the case
agents to concentrate their efforts on the primary unlawful activity under investigation, without
the added responsibilities of asset identification and removal.
5.2

AIRG Mission Statements
A. Develop expertise in identifying and tracking assets in all HSI disciplines.

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B. Identify all assets and investments that have been illegally acquired by individuals
and criminal organizations.
C. Establish probable cause to seize and forfeit all property, real and personal, used
and/or acquired as a result of criminal activity.
D. Identify, analyze, trace, seize, and forfeit all criminal proceeds deposited into
traditional and non-traditional financial institutions; trace and forfeit all stocks, bank
accounts, bonds, and other investments related to criminal activity.
E. Dismantle known criminal organizations by targeting their financial infrastructure
and seeking criminal, civil, or administrative actions to accomplish that mission.
F. Develop sources of information that can provide leads and intelligence on criminal
groups and how they attempt to legitimize their wealth.
G. Collect and assess intelligence on investment trends, modus operandi, and financial
structures favored by criminal organizations.
5.3

National Code of Professional Conduct for Asset Forfeiture

SAs and supervisors must follow the ten points of DOJ’s National Code of Professional Conduct
for Asset Forfeiture:
A. Law enforcement is the principal objective of forfeiture. Potential revenue must not
be allowed to jeopardize the effective investigation and prosecution of criminal
offenses, officer safety, the integrity of ongoing investigations, or the due process
rights of citizens.
B. The Constitution and federal statutes prohibit the improper use of personal
characteristics such as race, color, national origin, gender, or religion to target
individuals for law enforcement action.
C. No prosecutor’s or sworn law enforcement officer’s employment or salary shall be
made to depend upon the level of seizures or forfeitures he or she achieves.
D. Whenever practicable, and in all cases involving real property, a judicial finding or
probable cause shall be secured when property is seized for forfeiture. Seizing
agencies shall strictly comply with all applicable legal requirements governing
seizure practice and procedures.
E. If no judicial finding of probable cause is secured, the seizure shall be approved in
writing by a prosecuting or agency attorney or by a supervisory-level official.

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F. Seizing entities shall have a manual detailing the statutory grounds for forfeiture.
This manual will include procedures for prompt notice to interest holders, the
expeditious release of seized property where appropriate, and the prompt resolution
of claims of innocent ownership.
G. Seizing entities retaining forfeited property for official law enforcement use shall
ensure that the property is subject to internal controls consistent with those applicable
to property acquired through the normal appropriations processes of that entity.
H. Unless otherwise provided by law, forfeiture proceeds shall be maintained in a
separate fund or account subject to appropriate accounting controls and annual
financial audits of all deposits and expenditures.
I. Seizing agencies shall strive to ensure that seized property is protected and its value
preserved.
J. Seizing entities shall avoid any appearance of impropriety in the sale or acquisition of
forfeited property.
5.4

Office and Project Codes

The AIRG program is operational in all SAC offices throughout the United States. Just as the
SAC and Resident Agent in Charge offices have their own office codes, each AIRG has its own
unique office code (for example, the SAC New York AIRG’s code is “UN”). This office code
allows the AIRG to open its own cases and track its statistics within Case Management in TECS.
In addition to the office codes, each AIRG has its own project code (for example, the project
code for the SAC San Diego AIRG is “959”). The AIRG program also has its own unique
national project code (340). Both are used for statistical reporting purposes in TECS and
SEACATS. Both the national project code and the individual AIRG’s project code must be on
all case records, Reports of Investigation (ROIs), and SEACATS Incident Reports.
Individual AIRGs are evaluated by the quantity and the quality of their cases. TECS quantifies
the number of investigations opened by each individual AIRG via the unique project codes. This
includes special project codes for the various HSI disciplines. This is important because it
allows all case participants to retrieve statistical credit for the overall results of their cases.
SEACATS quantifies the number of seizures made by the AIRGs, as well as their values.
5.5

Headquarters Oversight

The AIRG program receives operational and administrative support by AFU staff at HSI
Headquarters (HQ) consisting of a Unit Chief, Section Chiefs, full-time national Program
Managers (General Schedule (GS) 1811 series), and contract employees.

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5.6

Relationship with TEOAF

TEOAF administers the TFF. The TFF was established in 1992 as the successor to what was
then the U.S. Customs Service Forfeiture Fund. The TFF is the receipt account for the deposit of
non-tax forfeitures made by the following member agencies:
A. Criminal Investigation Division, Internal Revenue Service, Department of the
Treasury;
B. ICE, Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
C. CBP, DHS;
D. U.S. Secret Service, DHS; and
E. U.S. Coast Guard, DHS.
When HSI SAs seize assets for forfeiture, not only are they assisting in the dismantling of the
organization, they are also helping to fund future law enforcement actions. Forfeited funds and
proceeds from the sale of forfeited assets may be deposited in the TFF and are available for
official use through TEOAF, which, as stated above, administers the TFF. HSI is reimbursed
tens of millions of dollars each year from the TFF for asset sharing, training, state and local
police overtime, awards to confidential informants (CIs), major case initiatives, equipment
upgrades, and other case-specific costs that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.
In addition to administering the TFF, TEOAF is responsible for the development of seizure and
forfeiture policy. TEOAF also coordinates with the DOJ Forfeiture Fund on legislative, policy,
and procedural matters impacting forfeiture and equitable sharing. (See Chapter 16 for guidance
on equitable sharing.)

Chapter 6. AIRG GROUP STRUCTURE
6.1

Structure

An AIRG should consist of one GS, SAs at the GS-12 and GS-13 grade levels, one or more
Criminal Research Specialists, an Investigative Assistant, and contract personnel.
6.2

Background and Training

The GS should be highly motivated to support the program through liaison efforts both within
and outside the SAC office. The GS should have at least a familiarity with financial
investigations, the Money Laundering Control Act, and various forfeiture provisions.

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Experienced SAs should be selected by their respective SAC to be assigned to the AIRG. As
stated in Section 4.4, SACs should select only SAs with at least 3 years of experience for the
AIRGs in their respective AOR. The SAs should have a familiarity with all core investigative
areas under the jurisdiction of HSI. Preferably, they should possess a strong background in
financial investigations and computer skills. SAs should be capable of writing complex
affidavits, have excellent interviewing skills, be both motivated and tenacious, and have the
desire to conduct complex investigations.
After their selection for the AIRG, these SAs will receive formal training in asset identification
and forfeiture provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. This training, the
Asset Forfeiture and Financial Investigations Training Course, is conducted by ICE Academy
Staff and by experienced SAs from field locations.
Periodically, the AIRG SAs will also receive updated asset forfeiture training through attendance
at various topic-related courses offered by both the private sector and government entities (e.g.,
the Department of the Treasury, DOJ, and ICE).
6.3

Tenure of AIRG Personnel

Frequent rotation of personnel into and out of the AIRG is undesirable; it prevents the
development of the necessary skills and expertise and squanders scarce funding for training and
other costs associated with this work. These appointments are to be considered long-term, and
care should be taken in the selection of incumbents to minimize disruption and maintain efficient
operations.
Personnel assigned to the position of AIRG GS must remain in place for 36 months, the duration
of the COTR certification. This certification is mandatory for AIRG GSs who act as COTRs
under the national real property contract. SAs assigned to AIRGs should remain in place for a
minimum of 24 months. These minimum tenures will provide a sufficient length of service to
ensure continuity in these important investigations.
6.4

Management Support

The Asset Forfeiture Program is a unique function unlike the normal duties in an enforcement
office. Asset forfeiture and its related laws and procedures are highly specialized and in a
constant state of change. The ability to investigate an asset case requires core knowledge of all
ICE investigative areas, as well as specialized knowledge of asset forfeiture laws. An AIRG
should be separate, dedicated solely to AIRG functions, and not commingled with other groups.
Field managers should fully understand and support the idea that the primary responsibility of
the AIRG is the identification and seizure of assets. This is not to suggest that members of the
group may not be utilized to cover some of the collateral duties required in the day-to-day
operation of a SAC office; these collateral duties, however, should not be long-term, but rather
should require no more than a day away from asset forfeiture responsibilities.
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Chapter 7. GENERAL DUTIES OF AN AIRG
7.1

Overall Critical Points to Remember
A. Law enforcement is the principal objective of asset forfeiture.
B. Assets should be a primary investigative consideration.
C. AIRG SAs should not waste investigative time and resources on liabilities, i.e.,
investigations lacking forfeiture potential or assets which do not meet legal or
financial requirements for forfeiture.
D. Communication and coordination are critical throughout the entire asset identification
and removal process; AIRG SAs, however, should be aware that all electronic
correspondence is discoverable.

7.2

Mandates

One of the most important functions of both the GS and the group members of an AIRG is to
ensure that seizures are both fiscally responsible and legally sound, i.e., able to withstand both
public and legal scrutiny.
AIRG SAs must gather evidence and plan for the legal and logistical aspects of seizures and
forfeitures. They must also give consideration to the economic impact of each seizure, including
the cost of management, storage, possible depreciation, and disposal of the seized property. An
AIRG should not proceed with a forfeiture action if it will cost the Government more than
the expected return, except in instances where there is an overriding law enforcement
purpose.
Once property has been seized, it is in the interest of the seizing AIRG to shepherd the seizure
through the forfeiture process as expeditiously as possible. AIRG SAs should ensure that ROIs
thoroughly document the bases for seizure and forfeiture. They should coordinate with FP&F
early in the asset forfeiture investigation and provide copies of ROIs to the appropriate FP&F
paralegal specialist as soon as possible following a seizure.
The deteriorating value of any item seized, commensurate with its associated storage and
disposal fees, should be a primary concern of all parties involved. The quicker and more
efficient the forfeiture process, the less money the seizure will cost the Government. It is
incumbent upon AIRG SAs, therefore, to remain up-to-date on the status of their seizures. SAs
should check the status of their seizures in SEACATS on a quarterly basis to ensure that seized
property is forfeited in a timely manner and does not create a potentially embarrassing situation.

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7.3

Liaison

In regard to the real property seizures, all AIRG personnel should be familiar with the real
property contract Statement of Work (SOW) as it applies to the services provided by the real
property contractor. It should be noted, however, that only the designated field COTR assigned
to each SAC Office is authorized to task the real property contractor and incur costs on behalf of
ICE. This COTR is usually the AIRG GS.
It is extremely important that both the GS and members of the AIRG establish and maintain a
close working relationship with all entities involved in a specific investigation. It is similarly
important that proactive liaison be established and maintained with the USAO, Seized Property
Custodian, FP&F, the real property contract manager, and the U.S. Marshals Service asset
forfeiture unit supervisor, as appropriate, within the AIRG’s AOR.
7.4

Knowledge of Forfeiture Law and Procedures

All AIRG members should become familiar with the statutes, policies, and procedures relating to
forfeiture and the operation of the forfeiture funds. Each AIRG, therefore, must maintain copies
of the TEOAF Guides and Guidelines and a set of the asset forfeiture manuals issued by DOJ’s
AFMLS (see Sections 2.2 and 2.3). These policy directives have an impact on a variety of
subjects relating to asset forfeiture and the day-to-day operation of an AIRG. Many of these
subjects are also covered in this Handbook and by other policies and procedures issued by ICE
and/or HSI.

Chapter 8. CASE MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES
Not all cases referred to the AIRG will result in seizures, but it is important to document the
work performed, showing that the AIRG is supporting the various criminal investigative groups
within the SAC office. HQ funding is determined by the overall resource efforts of the AIRG.
The tracking of statistics in TECS, which reflects both quantity and scope of cases, and in
SEACATS, which allows seizure and forfeiture analysis, supports the manpower needs, the
contract personnel, and the equipment expenditures of the AIRGs. Documenting all activities in
an ROI is important, not only to document the progress of an investigation, but to justify
additional equipment, contract assistance, and additional personnel.
Generally, AIRG investigations will be generated in one of two ways: through proactive
development or from referrals.
8.1

Proactive Case Development

AIRG SAs should periodically review open cases in their SAC’s AOR for the possibility of
proactively identifying cases with seizure and forfeiture potential. By querying the local port
code and specifying a date limit, the “GQIQ” function in TECS can be used to identify any
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recent seizures that may merit a collateral AIRG case. The case number in these instances will
be a collateral number developed from the original criminal case number.
While AIRG cases should always be collateral cases, in some instances an AIRG SA may
independently develop information to generate an asset forfeiture case. In these instances, the
AIRG SA should provide the information to the appropriate investigative group for potential
criminal case initiation.
8.2

Case Referrals

Case referrals can be handled in different manners:
A. According to the Case Management Handbook (Office of Investigations (OI)
Handbook (HB) 08-02, dated February 1, 2008, or as updated), a collateral
investigation is initiated by an ROI. This also applies to requests for AIRG
assistance. Any time a referral is from another SAC office, the collateral request
should be made with an ROI. It can also be used within the SAC area when there are
definite assets that are to be seized.
B. Within the SAC office, SAs may prefer to use a more informal referral. The referral
is a request that the AIRG perform an initial evaluation of the criminal investigation
for asset forfeiture potential. It should be initiated by the criminal case agent and
forwarded by the criminal case agent’s GS to the AIRG GS, who will assign it to one
of the AIRG SAs. After the referral has been assigned to an AIRG SA, the AIRG SA
and the criminal case agent should meet, discuss the investigation, and evaluate the
case’s potential for successful seizures.
C. Although the proper way to request assistance is through a collateral request or use of
a referral, there may be times when SAs from various groups have an excellent
working rapport with an AIRG SA. In these instances, the criminal case and AIRG
GSs should allow the criminal case agent and the AIRG SA to initiate a parallel
AIRG investigation on a one-on-one basis. The initial ROI by the AIRG SA should
specify that the request for assistance was made by the criminal case agent.
A case referral, whether requested by a collateral ROI or a referral request, should include: (1) a
brief case summary, (2) the case number, (3) any unique facts relating to the case, (4) whether
there are any known assets, and (5) known actual or potential witnesses in support of seizure.
Prior to opening a formal asset investigation, the prospective AIRG case agent may wish to
conduct a brief evaluation of the criminal investigation to determine, if possible: (1) whether or
not a law with a forfeiture provision has been violated and (2) the likelihood that probable cause
can be developed through investigation to support the seizure/forfeiture. The prospective AIRG
case agent should also evaluate the assets involved in the case in light of national and local
forfeiture threshold amounts.
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8.3

AIRG Case Determination and Coordination

Asset identification should occur at the onset and continue for the duration of the investigation.
This should also include the decision of which seizure method will be best suited to the case, i.e.,
administrative, civil, or criminal. In cases involving several investigative groups or multiple
agencies, case responsibilities should be delineated at the beginning of the investigation and
documented in an ROI.
In forfeiture, much of the complex work begins after the seizure. In many cases, the seizure
itself may be a simple process, but bringing the seizure to culmination with a successful
forfeiture may be more involved. Additionally, focusing on a criminal’s assets often broadens
the scope of an investigation, revealing financial and ownership links to other possible targets.
It is imperative that the criminal case SA and the AIRG SA coordinate all activities. This should
include working jointly in early CI debriefings, search warrants, and case interviews to identify:
A. Any legitimate sources of income/employment targets may have;
B. Knowledge/involvement of the spouse in illegal activities (AIRG SAs should be
aware of their state’s community property laws);
C. Targets’ admissions (bragging) about assets and expenditures;
D. Targets’ spending habits, i.e., cash or credit, and, if credit, which credit cards;
E. Bank statements, deposit slips, tax returns, investment literature, sales/service
receipts;
F. Illegal acts occurring on or in any real property;
G. Properties, conveyances, or luxury items used in facilitation of the act and/or
purchased with proceeds;
H. Associates of the main targets of the investigation; and
I. Targets’ and associates’ travel, both for business and pleasure.
Due to time and resource constraints, some of these items might not be a priority for the criminal
case agent. Therefore, there may be a need for the AIRG case agent to seek assistance from
other personnel. In any event, the criminal case agent must be notified of all investigative
findings.

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8.4

Collaboration on Search Warrants

During the drafting of any search warrant affidavits, the AIRG SA and criminal case SA should
coordinate their efforts and be certain to include the authority to search for and seize financial
documents. Furthermore, AIRG SAs should assist in the execution of all search warrants so that
the AIRG can search for and obtain specific information pertaining to the location of assets and
the monies/proceeds generated by the particular SUA being investigated.
Since financial records are frequently stored as electronic media, AIRG SAs, in cooperation with
the criminal case SA, should request the assistance of a Computer Forensics Agent (CFA) during
the planning and execution of any search warrant. The CFA can ensure that the search warrant
includes the authority to search for evidence stored in any computers or other electronic media
and assist in the recovery of digital evidence.
During the execution of any search warrant that provides authority to search for and seize
financial documents, SAs should attempt to locate and obtain:
A. Bank and financial statements, envelopes, or any other documents that identify a
financial institution, financial account, financial advisor, or accountant;
B. Tax returns;
C. Credit card statements;
D. Safe deposit box keys;
E. Titles and registrations to conveyances; and
F. Property records, mortgage information, or any other loan information.
It is extremely important that constant coordination and communication between the criminal
case SA, the AIRG SA, the criminal AUSA, and the asset forfeiture AUSA occur on a regular
basis. No decisions should be made arbitrarily by a single SA or other entity; AIRG SAs should
inform and seek the advice of all parties.
8.5

Opening an AIRG Case

According to Section 4.1.2(2) of the Case Management Handbook (OI HB 08-02), dated
February 1, 2008, case records must be opened in TECS no later than the end of the fifth
business day after an investigation has been initiated.
A TECS case opening need not be created if a cursory review of the criminal investigation is
enough to determine that there is no asset forfeiture potential. If the investigation requires a

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more in-depth analysis, however, the AIRG SA should open a case to ensure that the AIRG
documents and receives credit for its efforts.
When opening the AIRG case record, the AIRG case agent should use the defendant’s/subject’s
name and the type of investigation as the case title (e.g., “John Doe/Asset Forfeiture
Investigation”). If a case is the result of a referral, credit and recognition should always be given
to the referring group in the narrative of the case opening and in subsequent ROI investigative
synopses.
If, once an AIRG case has been opened, it is subsequently determined that the case has no asset
forfeiture potential, the investigation should be closed with a closing ROI. The closing ROI
should delineate the reason(s) there is no forfeiture potential. The referring office should be
included in the distribution code field on the closing ROI.
8.6

Inclusion of Originating Case Numbers

ROIs for both cases, the AIRG investigation and the originating criminal case, should reflect
each other’s case numbers in the “Related Case Numbers” field. This allows for the immediate
recognition by any querying SAs that an asset forfeiture investigation is being worked in
conjunction with the primary criminal case. SEACATS Incident Reports should reference the
counterpart AIRG or criminal case number in the narrative section, as appropriate.
8.7

Initial Report of Investigation

According to Section 4.1.3(4) of the Case Management Handbook (OI HB 08-02), dated
February 1, 2008, an initial ROI must be completed within 20 business days after an
investigation is initiated and submitted in TECS to the supervisor for approval.
For most referrals, the initial ROI should include the same information outlined in the collateral
request and any other information gathered from meetings with the criminal case agent. If there
is little information to review and no evidence connecting the property to the criminal act, the
AIRG SA may, with the concurrence of the GS, complete an open-and-close ROI documenting
database checks and any other work that was completed. The case can be reopened later if
additional information supporting forfeiture is developed.
All ROIs, whether completed by the criminal case agent or the AIRG SA, should include the
TECS distribution codes for all concerned. With the inclusion of the proper distribution codes,
all concerned parties will receive a copy of the report and will be apprised of the investigation’s
progress.
8.8

Interim Reports of Investigation

Documenting the progress of an AIRG investigation is extremely important. As additional assets
are identified, the AIRG SA should document such discoveries in a detailed ROI. Every ROI
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should be distributed to the criminal case agent. This keeps everyone apprised of the
investigation’s progress.
It is the responsibility of the AIRG SA not only to identify assets, but to determine if they meet
the seizure threshold (see Section 3.14) guidelines. Even if an asset does not meet the seizure
threshold and even if there is no probable cause to justify the seizure of an asset, the AIRG SA
must prepare an ROI documenting the asset’s identification.
When the case involves real property, the AIRG SA should prepare ROIs summarizing the
information contained in the title searches and net equity analyses provided by the real property
contractor. This should be done even if the net equity does not meet the seizure threshold.
AIRG SAs must complete an ROI documenting an enforcement or seizure action within 5
business days of the action. They must also prepare ROIs documenting the service of all
subpoenas, as well as the subsequent return and analysis of documents relating to those
subpoenas.
8.9

Case Closing and Disposition

AIRG SAs should keep cases in open or pending status until all seized property has been
forfeited, either administratively or through a court order, or has reached some other final
disposition. This could include return to its owner, release to a third party innocent owner,
remission to the victims of a financial crime, or release to a lien holder.
If real property has been seized, the AIRG investigation should not be closed until a final order
of forfeiture (see Section 3.4) is obtained from the court, the order has been filed with the county
clerk, and the property has been sold. For case management purposes, if the SA anticipates a
period of inactivity prior to receiving the final order of forfeiture, the case may be maintained in
a “pending” status. In some rare instances, the court, USAO, or HSI may request that, after a
real property has been indicted, it be sold through an interlocutory sale (see Section 3.5) to
preserve its value. In these instances, the proceeds of the sale remain in an escrow account until
the final order of forfeiture is issued by the court. During the forfeiture proceedings, the judge
will still rule on the forfeiture of the property itself, not the funds from the sale. Once a final
order of forfeiture is received and the proceeds are distributed, the case may be closed.
Prior to closing an investigation, AIRG SAs should check for the following possible loose ends:
A. If a pre-seizure analysis request was entered as a SEACATS Incident Report and the
property was never forfeited, the SEACATS Incident Report must be closed. The
Incident Report must never be cancelled. To correctly close a pre-seizure Incident
Report, AIRG SAs should utilize SEACATS function “PMPM” and select “Option
1.” At the bottom of the screen displayed, there will be an indication to press “PF14” (Shift + F2) to “CLOSE PA-PI-PW.” This will successfully close that line item
and still allow for proper accounting and expense reimbursement.
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B. If a lis pendens (see Section 3.7) was filed with the county clerk’s office, it must be
removed. To accomplish this, AIRG SAs must obtain a removal order from the
USAO and file this order with the county clerk. A copy of the removal order, with
the filing receipt from the county clerk, should be placed in the case file with a copy
of the original lis pendens.
8.10

Project Codes

The project code field in case records and SEACATS Incident Reports allows for the inclusion
of numerous project codes. It is imperative that this field reflect all other associated project
codes. In addition to the national project code, all case records and SEACATS Incident Reports
should reflect the individual office project code for each AIRG that either directly or indirectly
participated in the seizure. This field should also include project codes for the criminal case’s
investigative area and any other relevant project codes.
8.11

National AIRG Project Code

As stated in Section 5.4, the national project code for the AIRG program is 340 (Asset Removal
Team) and will be utilized on all case records and SEACATS Incident Reports. This project
code should be reflected in reports pertaining to any enforcement actions that an AIRG SA either
assisted in or directly caused. This is important because it allows anyone querying the case to
immediately recognize that a companion/collateral AIRG investigation exists in conjunction with
the criminal case.
8.12

Individual AIRG Project Codes

Individual project codes have been designated for each AIRG office. By including the
individual AIRG project codes in SEACATS Incident Reports and case records, each office
contributing to the investigation can receive credit for its investigative work.
The group acronyms, office codes, and project codes for the AIRG offices are as follows:
ATLANTA (UJ)
BALTIMORE (UB)
BOSTON (UG)
BUFFALO (UK)
CHICAGO (UI)
DALLAS (UX)
DENVER (UC)
DETROIT (UD)
EL PASO (UE)
HONOLULU (1U)
HOUSTON (UH)
LOS ANGELES (UL)

BART

CHART
DDART
DART
BEAR
HART
LASAR

964
951
969
965
952
7D2
953
954
955
6J1
956
231

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MIAMI (UM)
NEWARK (UW)
NEW ORLEANS (UQ)
NEW YORK (UN)
PHILADELPHIA (UR)
PHOENIX (UA)
SAN ANTONIO (UO)
SAN DIEGO (US)
SAN FRANCISCO (UF)
SAN JUAN (UP)
SEATTLE (UU)
ST PAUL (UY)
TAMPA (UT)
WASHINGTON (UV)

MIDAS

CONDOR

STAR
SANDART
OMEGA
PRART

TARG

341
7D1
966
957
968
7D4
958
959
960
961
967
7D6
962
7D0

Chapter 9. INVESTIGATIVE STEPS
9.1

General Guidelines for AIRG Investigations

AIRG SAs and GSs should maintain strong liaisons with their counterparts in their AOR’s
criminal investigative groups, continually stressing the need for criminal case SAs to enlist the
aid of the AIRG early in any investigation with asset forfeiture potential. As a general rule, the
earlier an AIRG becomes involved in an investigation, the more effective will be its efforts at
asset identification and the formulation of a forfeiture strategy.
AIRG SAs assigned to an investigation should:
A. Conduct a thorough investigation; tenacious, comprehensive investigations have
resulted in significant seizures;
B. Confer with the originating criminal case SA and review all criminal case ROIs to
identify assets, gather evidence linking the identified assets to the criminal activity
(as proceeds or facilitating properties), and establish probable cause for potential
seizures;
C. Verify that the alleged crime has a forfeiture provision;
D. Develop an appropriate forfeiture plan as assets are identified for potential seizure;
this plan should be documented in the case file;
E. Conduct physical surveillance of property and subjects as necessary;

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F. Conduct complete database (law enforcement and commercial) research. This should
include queries of all new names obtained from county records or on-line databases.
Consideration should be given to assets that may be hidden in the names of family
members and associates;
G. Identify problems and anticipate potential roadblocks to seizure and forfeiture (e.g.,
lack of probable cause, statute of limitations, proportionality, the innocent owner
defense, and/or environmental concerns/lead paint); and
H. Document all stages of the investigation in a detailed ROI.
9.2

Real Property

There are two ways to justify the seizure of real property for forfeiture. In the first, the SAs have
probable cause to believe that a criminal used the property in the commission of a crime. This is
facilitation. Examples are houses used to store narcotics or harbor illegal aliens.
The second way to justify forfeiture is to demonstrate that the criminal acquired the property
with proceeds derived from his or her illegal activity. An example would be a condominium
purchased using money acquired from illegal arms exports. Proceeds are always proceeds;
criminals may use proceeds to purchase real property or transfer proceeds into and out of various
financial accounts, but they always remain proceeds.
Some property may be used to facilitate crime and represent proceeds of illegal activity.
Although only one justification is necessary to proceed with the seizure and forfeiture, the AIRG
SA should gather and document evidence supporting both justifications when building the case.
An AUSA considering the merits of the forfeiture(s) may want to allege both justifications when
prosecuting the case.
9.3

Facilitation

When a real property is to be seized for facilitation, the AIRG SA should determine the
following:
A. If there are CIs involved, whether or not they are willing to testify that the property
was utilized to facilitate the criminal activity;
B. If there are no CIs, whether or not contraband was found on the property during the
execution of a warrant, a controlled delivery, a cold convoy, a surveillance, or a
knock and talk; and
C. Whether the property was used as a meeting, planning, or staging location for
criminal activity. Among many other factors, SAs may wish to consider whether a

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telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity, as
evidenced by a Title III interception or telephone toll record analysis.
9.4

Proceeds

When the property is to be seized for proceeds, the AIRG SA should take the following
investigative steps:
A. Determine whether the target has any legitimate jobs/employment that may represent
legitimate income. If the target has been employed in any legitimate capacity, the
AIRG SA should contact the appropriate state’s Department of Revenue to verify
employment and salary.
B. Ascertain whether the criminal case SA, a CI, or other individuals associated with the
target know of any other sources of income that the target may have (i.e.,
investments, wealthy family, inheritance, etc.).
C. Check public records to discover if there are any corporations or other businesses
registered in the target’s and/or family member(s)’ name(s).
D. Query criminal history databases to learn whether or not the target has a criminal
history.
E. Complete financial queries in TECS and available databases.
F. Identify loads of contraband or illegal aliens attributable to the target, if furnished by
the CI, and calculate the estimated amount of money the target would have received
for smuggling the load.
G. Determine whether there are additional properties in the target’s name.
H. Interview past employers, acquaintances, neighbors, parole officers, SAs, relatives,
etc., to determine the history/background of the individual.
I. Obtain mortgage applications, which may reveal valuable information regarding
assets and liabilities as well as checking and savings accounts information.
J. Obtain income tax returns to help determine sources of reported or legitimate income
(some means for obtaining income tax returns include ex parte orders, subpoenas to
third-party record keepers, or from files discovered during the course of a search
warrant; SAs may wish to consult with the appropriate AUSA or with the local Office
of the Chief Counsel (OCC) prior to obtaining income tax records).

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9.5

Possible Defenses Against Forfeiture

Throughout the AIRG investigation, it is imperative that the AIRG SA be aware of possible
defenses that may arise and prepare for them during the investigation. The most common
defenses are: (1) the “innocent owner” defense; (2) entrapment; (3) duress; and (4) undue delay
in bringing a forfeiture action. Of these defenses, the “innocent owner” defense is by far the
most frequently utilized. This defense involves a property owner who claims that he or she is
uninvolved in and unaware of the illegal activity that is the basis for the forfeiture, and that he or
she took every reasonable precaution to prevent the misuse of the property.
9.6

Evaluation of a Property Independent of a Pre-Seizure Analysis

Determining whether or not to take a real property requires information from various sources.
Factors that AIRG SAs should consider from the outset are: (1) the assessed value, (2) known
liens, (3) the probable equity, (4) possible environmental problems, (5) the existence of sufficient
probable cause for seizure, and (6) the ability to overcome possible defenses to the forfeiture.
When practical, the AIRG SA should drive by the property to evaluate its general condition and
environs, to observe potential problems that may not be apparent from online information, and to
verify the physical address. For property in areas outside of the investigating AIRG’s AOR, the
AIRG SA may send a collateral ROI requesting the assistance of another AIRG for a drive-by.
Sometimes properties may be located within the boundaries of the SAC’s AOR, but at a great
distance from the SAC office itself. In these cases, the AIRG SA may request, via a collateral
request or informally, the assistance of the criminal case agent or an SA in an office closer to the
real property. When possible, this drive-by should be completed prior to the submission of a
pre-seizure analysis request to the real property contractor.
9.7

Using Online Real Estate Information

Depending on the resources in the SA’s area, online real estate information systems may be
available (the same services utilized by real estate sales offices). The source of the information
is usually derived from the local tax rolls. The online information should always be verified
by an actual search of county records. The types of information available from these
commercial databases normally include:
A. Basic Data Information: the assessor parcel number, property address, bedrooms,
bathrooms, half bath(s), legal description, assessment, taxes, mortgage company
information, sale date, and sale amount history.
B. Deeds and Mortgages: information obtained from the documents recorded at the county
recorder’s office, which usually includes the mortgage amount, lender information, and
borrower information.

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C. Tax History Data: tax history breakdown of what the owner of the property pays in
taxes.
D. Full Legal Screen: the full, official, legal description of the property, which must be
included in any affidavits or other legal documents pertaining to the forfeiture of the
property.
E. Property Dimensions: the gross, adjusted, and living square footage.
F. Comparables: history of recent sales prices for properties of the same approximate
size, type, and value as the subject property from the most recent sale going back in
time.
9.8

Requesting Mortgage and Escrow Documents

Having identified mortgage and escrow companies from county property records and online
resources, the AIRG SA may wish to request, in coordination with the appropriate AUSA, grand
jury subpoenas for mortgage and escrow records pertaining to the property. Obtaining and
reviewing mortgage and escrow documents has several investigative benefits, even if, in the final
analysis, the property itself is not forfeitable because of seizure thresholds or other
considerations. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:
A. The mortgage documents often include income tax information, income verification
documents, employment information, credit history reports, and the identification of
other financial accounts held by the owner. These documents may aid in the
identification of other assets and bolster evidence concerning the individual’s amount
of legitimate income or lack thereof.
B. Mortgage and escrow documents often contain copies of cashier’s checks or other
methods of payment used to purchase the property. Establishing the source of funds
for the property purchase is a key element of any forfeiture investigation involving
proceeds of illegal activity.
C. The documents may contain statements by the property owner that the AIRG SA,
through other investigative avenues, knows to be dishonest. In some cases, these
dishonest statements may constitute fraud and may open the door to additional
criminal charges or bases for forfeiture.
D. Evaluation of the most recent mortgage statements will aid the AIRG SA in
performing a more precise calculation of net equity than that contained in public
records. This is particularly important in cases where the real property was purchased
several years prior to the investigation and the net equity (as determined by public
records) is close to the seizure threshold. (See Section 10.4 for more information on
net equity calculations.)
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9.9

Investigative Steps When the Target of the Investigation Is Not the Legal Owner

When the target of the investigation is not the same individual as the legal owner of the property,
the AIRG SA should attempt to determine:
A. The identity of the legal owner(s), possibly by arranging a meeting with the CI and/or
other individual(s) who may have knowledge relating to the true ownership;
B. Whether the criminal case SA has any information concerning the individual
appearing on the deed;
C. If and when a quit claim was filed transferring the title of the property from the target
to the newly-listed owner, and whether the transfer of the title occurred before or
after the initiation of the investigation;
D. If there are any taxes and/or liens outstanding against the property;
E. Who pays taxes on the property and where the tax assessor bills are mailed;
F. Whether remodeling has been done to the property or if the property is new. The
AIRG SA should retrieve permit records from the appropriate county permit office to
acquire the names of businesses/persons who worked on the property. The AIRG SA
should also obtain construction contracts and interview construction/building workers
as to their recollection of how the bills were paid and by whom. Additionally, the
AIRG SA should determine whether there was anything of a suspicious nature
encountered during construction (e.g., an unusual method of payment or irregular
modifications to the property); and
G. Whether the target’s financial account records reflect payments or other transactions
involving the property.
9.10

Requesting a Pre-Seizure Analysis

Real properties are held in different types of titles, i.e., grant deeds, warranty deeds, and Torrens
titles. AIRG SAs should check with the asset forfeiture specialist in their district’s USAO or
with the AIRG in the property’s jurisdiction for any specific local terminology or procedures
concerning a property with forfeiture potential.
When a real property is identified and there is evidence that ties the property to the crime, the
AIRG SA will ensure that the property meets the net equity (see Section 3.8) thresholds by
requesting an appraisal and cost benefit analysis from the real property contract manager. This is
done by initiating a pre-seizure analysis request through SEACATS. The AIRG SA will submit
the pre-seizure analysis request by completing a SEACATS Incident Report in the same manner
as any normal arrest or seizure. In place of the “SZ” or “SA” codes, however, the AIRG SA will
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enter “PA.” In the port code field, the AIRG SA must enter the port code of the actual location
of the property. This may or may not correspond to the port code of the AIRG SA’s SAC office.
Once the AIRG SA enters the SEACATS Incident Report, the local COTR (the AIRG GS) will
approve the request and submit a request for services to the real property contractor. SEACATS
will automatically generate a number for the “PA” incident that will apply to the individual
property throughout the entire seizure/forfeiture process. Since only one number should be
assigned to each individual property, multiple real properties should not be entered as separate
line items under the same SEACATS Incident Report.
If the results of the pre-seizure analysis dictate that additional investigative or judicial activity
against the property should not continue, the pre-seizure SEACATS Incident Report must be
closed. For accounting purposes, the AIRG SA must not simply cancel the Incident Report,
because monetary charges have been incurred against that pre-seizure number.
According to the terms of the real property contract SOW, there are a number of services that the
contractor will perform with respect to the pre-seizure analysis of a particular real property.
These services include, but are not limited to:
A. Property evaluation and condition;
B. Property legal status, title review, liens, encumbrances, and mortgages;
C. Property market analysis;
D. Professional real estate appraisal; and
E. Business operation analysis.
9.11

Receipt of Pre-Seizure Information from the Real Property Contractor

When the AIRG SA receives the title report, appraisal, cost/benefit analysis, and any other
relevant documents from the real property contract manager, he or she is responsible for
ensuring that all documents, liens, or mortgages actually pertain to the particular property under
consideration. In the past, mistakes made by the property contractor relating to ownership and/or
equity issues have affected the recommendations presented in the net equity and cost/benefit
analyses. Unless the AIRG SA reviews the pre-seizure analysis in its entirety, possible mistakes
could result in easily avoidable adverse decisions regarding the possible seizure.
Any additional pre-seizure work (e.g., an update of the title search and report) prior to the
initiation of a civil action or criminal indictment must be charged to the original pre-seizure
number, not a new one.

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9.12

Descriptions of Available Pre-Seizure Analysis Services
A. Researching the Title or Legal Ownership of a Real Property
Upon request of the AIRG, the real property contractor will perform one or more of
the following services to research the title or legal ownership of a real property:
1) Property Profile. This consists of a report provided by a title company, generally
at little or no charge, that lists a property’s owner(s), legal description, date of
construction, square footage, and location on a plat. This report may not have all
these things or may not be available, depending on the county where the property
is located.
2) Chain of Title. This provides a history of the property’s ownership/vesting over a
specified period of time. This report will not include information concerning
liens or encumbrances.
3) Title Search/Title History. This is a report which provides a legal description,
chain of title, current liens, mortgages, judgments, tax information, any other
matters that are pending against the property, and copies of the corresponding
documents. It will provide a chain of title showing all deeds from a specified
time period to the present, and will include copies of the deeds themselves.
4) Current Owner and Encumbrance (O&E) Search. Although similar to a title
search/title history, a current owner search provides only current owner
information. This report will include the legal description; tax information; and
the current deed and any open mortgages, liens, and judgments. It will include
copies of the relevant documents.
5) Preliminary Title Commitment. This report will document the results of a search
for the current condition of the property’s title and the steps that must be taken if
a clear title is to be issued. It should include the legal description, current owner,
and all matters pending against the property, including encumbrances, tax
information, mortgages, liens, judgments, restrictions, and easements. Copies of
the relevant documents will be included in the report.
B. Assessing the Value and Determining the Net Equity of a Property
At the request of the AIRG, the real property contractor will perform one or more of
the following services to assess the value and to help determine the net equity of a
property:
1) Online Valuation. As of March 1, 2007, the real property contractor utilizes
online valuation as the default option when requested to conduct a pre-seizure

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analysis for a piece of residential real property. This is a report generated by an
online service which will in most cases provide sales comparables, and will
usually give a low, medium, and high value for the specified property. This
report may not be available on all properties, and the real property COTR may
request one of the other forms of appraisal listed below if deemed necessary for
the investigation.
2) Drive-by Appraisal. Also referred to as a “limited scope” appraisal, a drive-by
appraisal is limited to a roadside inspection of the property. The inspection,
therefore, will be limited to the exterior of the property only. Assumptions are
made as to the interior condition of the property and the condition of any portions
of the property not visible from the road. Upon request, this report can be done
without taking photographs of the property.
3) Full Appraisal. Access to the entire property is required to complete this report,
which is performed by a certified appraiser and includes a comprehensive
physical inspection of the subject property without any limiting conditions.
4) Broker’s Price Opinion. A real estate broker issues this letter of opinion, which
estimates the value of the property based on the broker’s knowledge of the local
market and recent sales comparables. When requesting this type of appraisal
product, the AIRG SAs should specify whether or not a drive-by inspection
should be included in the opinion. This report may not be available on all
properties.
5) Business Valuation. This is an appraisal of a business entity based on the entity’s
ability to generate income. The valuation may also include an appraisal of any
land and improvements owned by the business entity. Although it is possible to
complete without business records, the availability and the quality and
completeness of the accounting and financial records play a critical role in the
difficulty in completing the valuation, as well as in the accuracy of the valuations.
6) Sales Comparables. Usually obtained from a local real estate agent or an online
service, sales comparables are presented as a list of similar properties in the area
that have been sold within the previous 6 months (or later depending on recent
sales). They may not be available for all properties.
7) Recertification. A certified appraiser provides this letter of opinion which states
the appraised value of a particular property based on a previous appraisal of the
same property.
8) Rental Survey. A certified appraiser prepares this report which estimates the
market rental rate for a particular property.

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9.13

Environmental Concerns

In light of TEOAF Directive 30, “Interim Guidelines re: Lead-Based Paint in Residential
Property Built Prior to 1978,” dated November 25, 1996, the initial identification of the subject
property must include the construction date.
9.14

Coordination with the Assistant U.S. Attorney

Once it has been determined that a seizure may take place, the Asset Forfeiture Section of the
USAO should be contacted to have an AUSA assigned to the case. This AUSA should
coordinate with the criminal case AUSA. The AIRG SA should conduct an initial briefing for
the asset forfeiture AUSA, explaining the basic facts of the case and the expected timeline for
the case. If the AIRG SA anticipates any problems with the seizure, he or she should discuss
them with the asset forfeiture AUSA as soon as possible. If the AIRG SA has prepared a draft
affidavit, the asset forfeiture AUSA should receive a copy for review at the time of the briefing.
9.15

Filing of Lis Pendens and Service of Notice

In criminal proceedings, once indicted, a lis pendens is obtained from the AUSA and filed with
the appropriate county clerk. In a civil proceeding, the AIRG SA will obtain a warrant in rem,
protective order, lis pendens, writ of entry, and/or eviction orders, as the specific investigation
dictates. The AIRG SA must identify and serve all interested parties with copies of the arrest
warrant in rem and/or protective order, and file the lis pendens with the appropriate county clerk.
(Note: In some judicial districts, the federal court clerk or USAO may file the lis pendens via
registered mail.)
Once the lis pendens has been received and served, the SEACATS Incident Report initiating the
“PA” should be updated. The SA that initiated the Incident Report should be able to update the
“PA” to a “PI” for criminal forfeiture or a “PW” for a civil forfeiture. (See Section 15.3.)
The AIRG SAs should become familiar with the laws pertaining to lis pendens in their particular
state. In some states, the lis pendens automatically expires, with the time frame varying from
state to state. AIRG SAs should be cognizant of this expiration, since the time period from
issuance of a lis pendens to actual forfeiture or a real property is, on average, between 21 and 36
months. AIRG SAs should request that the AUSA file the appropriate pro forma motion prior to
the expiration date of the lis pendens. The AIRG SA should prepare and return a “Process
Receipt and Return” (Treasury Department Form (TD F) 90-22.48).
When providing notice of the lis pendens to all interested parties, the AIRG SA should ensure
that a copy is delivered to the defendant in the jail and/or to the defendant’s attorney if the
defendant is in custody. Mailing the notice to the home or business of an incarcerated defendant
does not constitute serving notice. A legitimate attempt must be made and documented to serve
the necessary individuals. In many jurisdictions, the AUSA will send the notice.

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9.16

Maintenance of Real Property Files

Once a pre-seizure SEACATS Incident Report has been approved, a separate file should be
maintained for each real property pending possible forfeiture. A multi-sectional file will be
maintained in the following order:
A. Section A
1) Left Side – Property Information Sheet.
2) Right Side – SEACATS and other HSI documents:
a)
b)
c)
d)

Copy of the initial AIRG ROI;
Pre-seizure summary (approved copy);
Copy of the SEACATS Incident Report;
Copy of the disposition orders for any and all requests sent to the real property
contractor;
e) Any extension requests for previously sent dispositions; and
f) Copies of any other correspondence related to the property (e.g., e-mail).
B. Section B
1) Left Side – Legal Documents from the AUSA:
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
g)
h)
i)
j)

Preliminary order of forfeiture;
Final order of forfeiture;
Appeals;
Sentencing agreement;
Motions on real and personal property;
Substitute asset agreement;
Final sentencing documents;
Copy of the lis pendens;
Any legal documents provided by the AUSA for service by ICE; and
Any memos received from the AUSA that refer to the investigation.

2) Right Side – Documents from the Property Contractor:
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)

Title search;
Historical report;
Equity report;
Cost/benefit analysis;
Plat map;
Appraisal;

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g) Report of environmental issues (e.g., lead-based paint, oil/gas spills, toxic
waste);
h) Photos of property (from both surveillance and pre-seizure analysis);
i) Copy of CBP Form 6051S with the property contractor’s signature and the
date the chain-of-custody form was submitted to FP&F;
j) Consignment order/inventory sheet (including a photo inventory of property
that records any high value items in, or any existing damage to, the property);
and
k) Property management plan from the real property contractor, including
contact information for the local manager to whom the property has been
consigned.
9.17

Financial Seizures

Crimes are committed for profit and the profit usually transits through bank accounts at some
point in time. These illegal proceeds should be traced and seized. Furthermore, since bank
accounts are “liquid assets,” they should be seized as soon as possible to prevent criminals from
moving the funds to unidentified accounts or accounts that are outside the jurisdiction of the
court. Both business and personal accounts can be seized. These may be regular bank accounts,
including, but not limited to, checking, savings, or certificates of deposit, or they may be
brokerage or other investment accounts.
Once probable cause has been established to seize one account, it requires very little effort to
expand the scope of the investigation and obtain additional seizure warrants. If the money trail
leads to an asset, the AIRG SA should attempt to obtain a seizure warrant for that asset. If the
AIRG SA discovers evidence that the target of the investigation is engaged in money laundering,
the criminal case SA should include those violations in the indictment.
When investigating financial accounts, SAs should familiarize themselves with the terms of the
Right to Financial Privacy Act (12 U.S.C. § 35). To maintain the integrity and confidentiality of
the investigation, SAs should use grand jury subpoenas whenever possible to obtain bank
account information or any other financial information covered by the Right to Financial Privacy
Act.
When using a grand jury subpoena to obtain bank account records in furtherance of the criminal
case, SAs should draft subpoena requests that give them the authority to require the financial
institution to produce any and all documents pertaining to the account in question. SAs should
request documents relating to the time period encompassing any known criminal activity on the
part of the target of the investigation. AIRG SAs should coordinate their grand jury subpoena
requests with the appropriate AUSA and the criminal case agent. Depending on the preferences
of the local USAO and the working relationship with the financial institution involved, SAs may
wish to request that, initially, the financial institution send only copies of monthly statements,
signature cards, and, if needed, loan documents. By limiting the initial request, the response
time by the bank will be shorter and the initial cost of reimbursement to the USAO will be less.
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After a cursory analysis, the AIRG SA can determine which, if any, additional records are
required and request them from the financial institution without serving another grand jury
subpoena.
In some cases, financial accounts should be seized as soon as probable cause exists to do so in
order to prevent the liquidation of assets or movement of funds. If a delay in seizing the bank
accounts is necessary, SAs may, in coordination with the AUSA, obtain a temporary restraining
order against movement of funds from the accounts, pending the obtaining of a seizure warrant.
In other cases, however, seizure of financial accounts may alert a previously unaware suspect
that he or she is the subject of an investigation. AIRG SAs, therefore, should always coordinate
the asset forfeiture side of an investigation with the criminal case SA. If the confidentiality of an
investigation is a concern, then bank accounts should be seized at the same time or as soon as
possible after the service of the criminal search and/or arrest warrants.
To prevent criminals or their associates from draining accounts in the face of a pending
forfeiture action, some state laws allow law enforcement officers to “freeze” assets for a limited
time during the course of a criminal investigation. California state law, for example, permits an
“adverse action claim” which can be requested by any state officer. Service of the “adverse
action claim” causes a 72-hour freeze of bank accounts, certificates of deposit, money market
accounts, and access to safe deposit boxes. AIRG SAs should check with their AUSA, task force
officers, or state prosecutor’s office to learn if this investigative tool is available in their AOR.
9.18

Seizures of Businesses

The seizure of a business is not prohibited; however, undertaking such a seizure should be given
serious thought prior to initiating any action. The seizure of a business often entails continuing
the business’ legitimate operations in order to preserve the value of the enterprise. (Note: When
possible, SAs should explore the possibility of seizing the assets underlying a business, e.g., the
business’ operating accounts, premises, etc., rather than attempting to take over the commercial
enterprise itself.)

Chapter 10. PRE-SEIZURE PLANNING
Pre-seizure planning consists of anticipating and making decisions concerning what is to be
seized, why it is being seized, and how it is going to be seized. The following sections contain
some of the many factors that AIRG SAs should consider when planning an anticipated seizure.
In considering these and other pre-seizure planning issues, AIRG SAs should be familiar with
the TEOAF Guides and Guidelines (see Section 2.2). When planning for seizure, especially
when seizing and processing real property, AIRG SAs should coordinate with and seek the
advice of the local Seized Property Specialist (SPS), because SPSs have experience and expertise
in this area. AIRG SAs and the SPS should also enlist the aid of an FP&F paralegal specialist
early in any investigation in which multiple seizures are anticipated. The paralegal specialist
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will then have an opportunity to become familiar with the investigation and offer advice and
expertise during the pre-seizure planning process.
10.1

What is Being Seized?
A. If the AIRG SAs plan to seize a house, they should give consideration to the contents
of the house. Will they also be seized? If so, the AIRG SAs should ensure that the
contents are mentioned in any affidavits, court documents, seizure paperwork, or
SEACATS Incident Reports.
B. If the AIRG SAs plan to seize a farm, will the seizure include the livestock or only
the real property?
C. If a business is to be seized, will the AIRG also attempt to seize the building where
the business is located? How will the SAs deal with the issue of accounts payable
and accounts receivable following the business’ seizure? Will any special licenses or
permits (e.g., a liquor license) be included in the seizure? SAs should take into
consideration the possibility that, if the forfeiture is not successful, the Government
could be ordered to pay the defendants for the potential loss of business revenue and
loss of goodwill due to the seizure.
D. What was the property used for? Was it used to distribute or manufacture drugs? If
so, were hazardous chemicals stored or disposed of on the premises? If so, these
hazards may pose liabilities to HSI and additional costs to the TFF following the
seizure.
E. Do any renters have interests in the property? Will the occupants of the property be
allowed to remain? If so, the AIRG SA and GS should make arrangements with the
real property contractor to complete an occupancy agreement.

10.2

Why is the Asset Being Seized?
A. Was the property used during the commission of a crime or to facilitate criminal
activity?
B. Is there enough net equity in the property to justify seizure under TEOAF guidelines?
C. If there is not enough net equity to justify seizure and forfeiture, is there an overriding
law enforcement reason to justify the seizure (e.g., a vehicle with a smuggling
compartment, a firearm in the possession of a felon)? In these cases, the value of the
item may be of secondary importance.
D. Was the property purchased with illegal proceeds?

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E. Who is the legal owner of the property?
F. Does the property have any liens or encumbrances against it?
G. What are the estimated costs of managing and disposing of the property prior to
seizure?
10.3

How is the Asset Going to Be Seized?
A. If the asset is real property, does the court order authorizing seizure also authorize
entry? If not, the AIRG SA should consider obtaining a writ of entry.
B. How many people will be required to secure the property? Should they all be SAs or
other law enforcement officers? Will HSI require assistance from outside agencies
(e.g., animal control, a hazardous materials team, etc.)? (The answers to these
questions should be the product of coordination between all parties, including the
AIRG SA, the criminal case SA, the SPS, the COTR, and the real property
contractor.)
C. Is there a potential for harm to SAs or other personnel in the form of weapons,
chemicals, explosives, or dangerous animals?
D. What contract services, materials, or supplies will be needed to secure the property
(e.g., locksmiths, boarding services, etc.)?
E. Will the seizure attract media interest? If so, SAs should contact their local ICE
public information officer prior to the seizure.
F. The AIRG SA and COTR should ensure that, unless law enforcement reasons dictate
otherwise, the real property contractor’s personnel should be present at the time of
seizure to assume custodial responsibilities immediately after seizure.
G. Is there an occupied structure on the property? If so, there may be constitutional
privacy interests to consider. In some jurisdictions, it may be necessary to obtain a
writ of entry for inspection and inventory or to include a “right of entry” clause in the
warrant against the property.
H. The AIRG SA should make arrangements for the filing of a lis pendens with the local
county recorder’s office as soon as possible after the appropriate complaint or
indictment has been obtained. If the property is forfeited, FP&F will ensure the
release of the lis pendens. If the indictment or complaint does not result in forfeiture,
the SA, in coordination with the AUSA, must make arrangements to remove the lis
pendens.

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10.4

Calculation of Net Equity/Avoiding Liability Seizures

AIRG SAs must obtain net equity information prior to seizing real property and businesses. As a
general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the
value of the property, the property should not be seized. Even if there is positive net equity in
the property, that net equity amount must meet certain thresholds before the SAs may proceed
with the forfeiture. (See Section 10.6.)
The AIRG SAs are responsible for providing adequate information about the liabilities and costs
of a seizure to the AUSA. The AIRG SA may also wish to inform and seek the advice of FP&F
and the local OCC. The final determination as to whether or not to seize a real property or
business should be made by the seizing AIRG SA in consultation with the criminal case SA, the
criminal AUSA, the asset forfeiture AUSA, and, when appropriate, FP&F, OCC, and the SPS.
When possible, the AIRG SA should identify one or more alternatives that would accomplish the
desired effect of seizure – to deprive a person of illegally owned or acquired property – at a
lesser cost to the Government. Possible alternatives may include “stipulated or interlocutory
sale” or the substitution of a payment in lieu (see definition in Section 3.9 and further discussion
in Section 15.4) of the forfeiture of the real property.
10.5

Special Considerations When Planning the Seizure of a Commercial Enterprise

Before planning to seize an ongoing commercial enterprise, AIRG SAs should give
consideration to the feasibility of the business. They should ascertain how heavily encumbered
the business is with debt, liens, or other liabilities. AIRG SAs should also consider any potential
environmental hazards or other threats that the business may pose to government or contract
personnel. Careful planning will help determine whether or not the seizure of the commercial
enterprise is in the best interest of the Government.
When appropriate to an investigation, the real property contract includes provisions for the
continued operation, on behalf of the Government, of commercial businesses or other
enterprises. Unless enforcement requirements mandate otherwise, AIRG SAs should obtain, in
advance, a determination from the seized property contractor as to the feasibility of continuing to
operate the business. They should also request that the real property contractor identify and
analyze any environmental problems or other hazards that would make the seizure inadvisable.
10.6

Seizure Thresholds

Pursuant to TEOAF Directive 20, “Net Equity Requirements for Seized Property,” dated
September 23, 1994, and the DOJ Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual, dated 2008, and barring an
overriding law enforcement purpose, net equity must exceed the following thresholds in order to
justify a seizure:

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Cars
Vessels
Aircraft
Real Property

Currency
Bank Accounts
Jewelry

$10,000
$10,000
$10,000
The greater of $20,000 or 20% of appraised value (e.g., real
properties valued at less than $100,000 must have at least $20,000
worth of net equity; the net equity in properties valued at more
than $100,000 must be at least 20%)
$ 5,000
$ 5,000
$ 5,000

The USAO in the AIRG SA’s district may require net equity amounts greater than the national
thresholds listed above. It is the responsibility of each AIRG to know the local prosecutorial
guidelines.
10.7

Pre-Seizure Summary Report

The pre-seizure summary report is required prior to the seizure of all real property, including
businesses, and any general property whose value is in excess of $100,000. (This does not
include seizures of monetary instruments.) The pre-seizure summary report must be approved
by the SAC in the AIRG’s AOR and forwarded to AFU at HSI HQ. The Unit Chief, AFU, must
approve all real property seizures by means of the pre-seizure summary report. If the final
decision is made to take the property and the net equity of the property is over $1,000,000 and/or
it is an unusual or high profile seizure, prior approval must be obtained from the Executive
Associate Director of HSI. An approved copy of the pre-seizure summary report must be
maintained in the AIRG SA’s case file. If the pre-seizure summary report pertains to real
property, the AIRG SA should place an approved copy in the real property file.
10.8

Seizures of Businesses

AIRG SAs considering the seizure of an operating business should be aware that such a seizure
requires approval from DOJ. Obtaining this approval normally takes a minimum of 30 days.
10.9

Adopted Seizures

A federal, state, or local law enforcement agency or foreign country that has seized property may
request that HSI adopt the seizure and proceed with forfeiture. HSI may adopt such seized
property for forfeiture when the conduct giving rise to the seizure is in violation of a federal law
enforced by HSI.
HSI policy permits the adoption of seizures; however, within 30 calendar days from the date the
property was originally seized, the seizing state or local agency must make a written request
addressing the adoption of the seizure to the local SAC office. The SAC and the Unit Chief,
AFU, must approve the adoption. The requesting agency must have completed 100% of the
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required investigative and pre-seizure work prior to HSI’s adoption of the seizure. In addition,
the value of the seizure must exceed $10,000.
Some states require turnover orders. As stated in Section 3.17, a turnover order is an
authorization, obtained from the state court with jurisdiction over the seizure, which authorizes
the state or local agency to turn the seizure over to HSI for adoption. The following states
require “turnover” documents to be filed when a state court authorized a seizure warrant for the
property: Alaska, California, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Texas,
and Utah. The following states require a turnover order when a state or local seizure is
accomplished by any means: Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri. Obtaining a turnover order may
be as simple as submitting a letter from the District Attorney’s Office or may require a more
formal filing with the appropriate state court. AIRG SAs should consult with the seizing agency,
local prosecutors, and the OCC in their AOR prior to adopting seizures in these locales.

Chapter 11. TYPES OF FORFEITURES
There are three types of forfeiture procedures to be considered when conducting an AIRG
investigation: administrative, civil, and criminal.
11.1

Administrative Forfeiture

Administrative forfeiture is initiated and carried out by an agency without judicial involvement.
It is limited to certain types and values of property:
A. Real property may not be seized or forfeited administratively.
B. All contraband and conveyances used to transport controlled substances may be
forfeited administratively regardless of value.
C. Currency of any value may be administratively forfeited.
D. All property not falling into one of the categories listed above, including financial
accounts, is limited to a value of $500,000.
Property seized administratively by ICE HSI is turned over to the CBP FP&F for processing.
FP&F will provide notice to owners and lien holders, ensuring that the forfeiture conforms to
requirements established by CAFRA. If the owner of the property challenges its seizure and
forfeiture under administrative proceedings, then the forfeiture will become a civil forfeiture,
subject to judicial proceedings.

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11.2

Civil Forfeiture

Civil forfeiture occurs when SAs, with the assistance of the local USAO, file a civil complaint
for forfeiture in rem with the federal district court. Civil forfeitures are actions against the
property itself; essentially, they hold the property civilly liable for its involvement in criminal
activity. They are conducted independently of any criminal proceedings and do not rely on a
criminal conviction for their success or failure. The standard of proof for a civil forfeiture in
those cases subject to the requirements of CAFRA is preponderance of the evidence. For
forfeitures not subject to CAFRA (i.e., the Tariff Act of 1930, Title 19 of the United States Code;
the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. § 301
et seq.); the Trading with the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.); and Section 1 of Title VI of
the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917 (22 U.S.C. § 401)), the burden of proof on the Government
is probable cause.
Civil forfeitures are particularly advantageous in cases in which the defendant in the criminal
case has become a fugitive, is deceased, or is beyond the reach of the court for some other
reason. They are disadvantageous in cases in which a seized asset is transferred, damaged, or
destroyed between the time of the criminal activity and the time of the forfeiture. No
substitution of assets is allowed in civil forfeiture cases if the asset is lost or devalued.
11.3

Criminal Forfeiture

Criminal forfeiture occurs when SAs, through the USAO, include a forfeiture allegation in a
grand jury indictment, information, or criminal complaint filed against a defendant. The fate of
items seized under criminal forfeiture proceedings is tied to the fate of the criminal defendants.
For the item to be forfeited, the defendant must be convicted of the underlying criminal
violation, and either a trial jury or the defendant’s plea agreement must concur with the grounds
for the proposed forfeiture. Once the defendant has been convicted, a federal judge will issue a
preliminary order of forfeiture. This preliminary order cedes the defendant’s ownership interests
in the property to the Government.
Following the issuance of the preliminary order of forfeiture, the USAO will publish a notice of
the pending forfeiture and send the notice to lien holders or other parties with an ownership
interest in the property. Within 30 days of publication and notice, all interested parties will be
given an opportunity to present their claims in an ancillary hearing. Once all claims have been
resolved in the ancillary hearing, the judge will issue a final order of forfeiture (see Section 3.4),
called an “amended order of forfeiture” in some districts.
Criminal forfeitures are disadvantageous in cases in which the defendant is beyond the reach of
the court, as in the case of a fugitive. They are also disadvantageous in criminal cases which
take a great deal of time to reach a disposition, since the Government must pay
storage/maintenance costs and there is a risk that the asset may depreciate in value over time.
Criminal forfeitures are advantageous, however, in cases in which a forfeitable property is
destroyed, damaged, or transferred to another party, because they allow for substitution of assets.
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SAs, through the AUSA and court, may seek the forfeiture of another, equivalent asset owned
by the defendant, even if the other asset was not involved in the criminal activity.
FP&F should be notified immediately if any item that has been seized has been included in a
criminal indictment. Administrative forfeiture may occur prior to the final judicial disposition of
the seized item. If the administrative forfeiture has been accomplished during the judicial action,
it is incumbent upon the case agent to notify the AUSA regarding the action against the asset.
At the culmination of criminal forfeiture proceedings, even if a plea agreement has been reached
whereby the defendant agrees to the forfeiture, an order of forfeiture is required to perfect the
forfeiture in the criminal case. SAs, therefore, should ensure that all indicted assets have been
included in an order of forfeiture or an order of sentencing issued by the presiding judge.
11.4

Parallel Proceedings

Federal law contains forfeiture provisions for both civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture. Under
CAFRA, Congress provided that criminal forfeiture may be pursued under any statute
authorizing civil forfeiture. The law provides that property may be forfeited under either a
criminal or civil statutory basis, or under both simultaneously. There is no restriction on filing
parallel proceedings and no requirement that one precede the other. The use of parallel
proceedings is a tool provided to the Government to accomplish forfeiture, and its possible
benefits should be considered in every case.
11.4.1 Civil
In most cases, an asset is seized before the case is indicted. Because CAFRA deadlines apply to
most property seizures, FP&F will generally begin an administrative forfeiture action against the
property. If a claim is filed, the case will be referred to the USAO who must file a civil
complaint, indict the property, or return the property within 90 days of the claim being filed,
unless the court grants an extension of time. Frequently, when the claim is referred, the USAO
is not ready to indict the criminal case and will file a civil forfeiture complaint at that time,
serving notice of that complaint on interested parties.
In the case of real property or many assets valued at more than $500,000 (see Section 11.1),
there can be no administrative forfeiture proceeding; the Government may choose to begin a
civil case by filing a civil judicial complaint in U.S. District Court in order to protect the
property while the criminal investigation continues. Once claims and answers are filed in the
civil judicial proceeding, the Government may seek to stay the civil case if the civil discovery
will adversely affect the related criminal investigation or prosecution. This avenue is often
pursued as a means to seize and hold the property while the criminal investigation is completed.
Once the case is stayed, there are no further time lines in place, unless the court chooses to
impose a deadline as a condition of the stay.

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11.4.2 Criminal
When a case is criminally indicted, the property should be included in the criminal indictment as
part of a forfeiture allegation, even if that property is already the subject of a parallel civil
forfeiture. The criminal case may proceed through the normal course and likely will result in the
ultimate forfeiture of the property as part of the criminal sentence. At that time, the third party
interests may be addressed as part of the criminal ancillary proceeding. In those cases, once the
final order of forfeiture is entered, the Government would move to dismiss the pending civil
forfeiture proceeding.
There are several circumstances in which the Government may choose to revive the civil
forfeiture case and complete the forfeiture in that proceeding rather than the criminal case. For
instance, if the defendant becomes a fugitive or dies before the criminal case is completed, the
civil forfeiture proceeding will allow the Government to complete the forfeiture as civil
proceedings do not depend upon a criminal conviction. Also, there may be third party interest
that would prevail in a criminal case, but would not survive in a civil proceeding, making the
civil proceeding essential to forfeiture. Those situations generally occur when a property owner
is not convicted of a crime but is also not an innocent owner. Under criminal forfeiture, that
property owner would be entitled to the return of the property. Under civil forfeiture, however,
the owner would lose his or her interest to the Government.

Chapter 12. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS IN AIRG INVESTIGATIONS
12.1

Criminal Cases

Criminal case SAs should contact the AIRG for assistance well in advance of the formulation of
an indictment. If assistance is not sought from an AIRG, the criminal case SA should ensure that
the indictment contains appropriate general forfeiture language.
AIRG SAs should attend and observe defendants’ bond hearings to ensure that the defendant
cannot use potentially forfeitable property as collateral for bail.
It is important to remember to include the members of the AIRG on the 6(e) letter if grand jury
information is to be provided to assist in the asset forfeiture investigation.
Overall case coordination becomes an extremely important issue in cases that involve a criminal
prosecution as well as asset forfeiture. It is critical that the criminal case SA, the AIRG SA, their
GSs, and the criminal and asset forfeiture AUSAs have an open and frequently used line of
communication. No entity should arbitrarily make any major decision without first consulting
the other members of the investigative and prosecutorial team.
If there is to be asset forfeiture in a criminal case, an order of forfeiture must be submitted to the
court before or at the time of sentencing in order for forfeiture to occur. For this reason, AIRG
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SAs should attend defendants’ sentencing hearings. Criminal forfeitures must also be included
in the oral pronouncement by the judge of the sentence in the presence of the defendant, absent a
waiver. The oral pronouncement by the judge “controls” over any written order. If forfeiture is
omitted from the written judgment, the SAs must contact the AUSA immediately to have the
omission corrected.
In the event that any of the criminal case court documents are sealed, AIRG SAs must arrange to
have the asset forfeiture seizure affidavits and court documents sealed as well.
12.2

Plea Agreements

Assets should not be utilized as bargaining tools in plea negotiations. AIRG SAs should be wary
during plea agreements. Defendants may attempt to give up property they do not own. The
Government cannot take an asset simply because the defendant offers to surrender it. There
must be ownership on the part of the defendant in all cases. Also, a nexus to the violation must
be established unless the asset is being considered as a substitute asset. In cases where plea
agreements involve known, offshore assets, the plea agreements should contain explicit
admissions by the defendant(s) that the foreign-based assets and properties represent criminal
proceeds or properties purchased therewith. If possible, the plea agreement should stipulate that
the defendant(s) will make every possible effort to repatriate these assets back to the United
States.
Ownership and legal title must be verified prior to acceptance of the plea. The defendant should
be asked if any properties are in foreclosure. If the defendant states that the property payments
are current or that the property is free and clear of any type of encumbrance and that is either not
the case or changes at a later time, the agreement should be revoked and voided.
AIRG SAs, in cooperation with criminal case SAs, should make sure that plea agreements
include the following:
A. A brief statement of the defendant’s ownership interest in the property to be forfeited;
B. The defendant’s consent to the forfeiture and to any related civil forfeitures;
C. The defendant’s agreement to cooperate in resolving third-party claims in favor of the
United States, including obtaining a waiver of ownership rights from the defendant’s
spouse; and
D. The defendant’s agreement to endorse a preliminary order of forfeiture to be
submitted to the judge at the time the guilty plea is entered.
The Government cannot readily accept the defendant’s property given up through a plea
agreement if the indictment did not contain forfeiture language. If “fast track” pleas are used in

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their districts, AIRG SAs should request that the AUSA include forfeiture provisions in the plea
agreement.
In cases where plea agreements involve known offshore assets, the plea agreements should
contain explicit admissions by the defendants that the foreign-based assets represent criminal
proceeds. Such admissions may be sufficient to enable the foreign authorities to forfeit the
assets, even if the United States is unable to do so.
12.3

Financial Affidavits

Whenever possible, AIRG SAs and AUSAs should require defendants to complete affidavits of
financial information prior to finalizing plea agreements. Cooperating defendants should
complete the financial affidavit and submit to a Psychological Detection of Deception
Examination (formerly known as a “polygraph examination”) to verify the information provided.
A number of SAs have experienced a high rate of success in locating additional assets through
this combination of investigative tools.
12.4

Out of District Actions

When a request for seizure assistance is sent from one AIRG office to another, and the assistance
is minimal (e.g., service of a warrant and preparation of a SEACATS Incident Report), the AIRG
office receiving the request may use the TECS case number of the originating AIRG. If the
assistance results from a formal collateral request or involves additional investigative steps, then
the receiving AIRG will open a collateral case, basing the case number on the number of the
original criminal case. The new case record and any SEACATS Incident Reports must also
include the project code of the requesting AIRG, and any ROIs should show the requesting
AIRG’s case number in the related case field.
A. Out of District Forfeitures of Real Property
In all cases involving the potential seizure of real property that is located in a district
outside the investigating SAC Office, the SEACATS Incident Report must reflect the
port code for the area where the real property is located. It is incumbent upon the
AIRG SA in the originating office to coordinate with the local FP&F office and the
FP&F office where the real property is located. The AIRG whose AOR encompasses
the location of the real property is required to perform periodic drive-by inspections.
B. Out of District Forfeitures of Bank Accounts
Seized funds may be turned over either to the local FP&F office or returned to the
originating office. In either case, the AIRG case number of the affiant’s office is to
be entered on the SEACATS Incident Report. When an out-of-district seizure
warrant is executed and the check is returned to the originating office, the AIRG case
number of the affiant’s office, along with the port code of the physical location of the
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seizure, must be entered on the SEACATS Incident Report. The project codes of all
participants, including any codes associated with the criminal investigation, must be
entered on the SEACATS Incident Report. The seizure will be entered into the
SEACATS Incident Report in the same manner as a controlled delivery. The seizure
is transferred back to the originating office for forfeiture via the PMPM transfer
module, options 6 and 7. An executed copy of CBP Form 6051S, “Custody Receipt
for Seized Property and Evidence,” must be sent to the FP&F office in the originating
port.
12.5

Receiverships and Unique Court Orders

The SEACATS Incident Report must use a “PW” code (for a civil forfeiture) or a “PI” (for a
criminal forfeiture), rather than an “SZ” code, when the court order specifies that the item is to
remain under the physical control of the court.
12.6

Restraining Orders

The same port code rules that apply to bank account seizures also apply to restraining orders.
AIRG SAs should use a “PI” or “PW” code when entering the SEACATS Incident Report.
12.7

International

There has been a steady increase in international cooperation between the United States and
other countries in the asset forfeiture arena. In part, this is due to the fact that more and more
countries continue to enact their own forfeiture and monetary laundering laws, enabling them to
render assistance in seizing, freezing, and forfeiting assets on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Seeking assets and/or assistance from a foreign country is time consuming and must follow a
strict protocol. Coordination and communication are critical. All AIRG SAs should beware of
violating established procedures, treaties, or working agreements when seeking assistance and
assets in a foreign country. The extent and type of assistance which may be obtained from a
foreign country will depend on that particular country’s domestic laws.
If possible, it is extremely important to start this process very early in the investigation. It is also
important for AIRG SAs to contact and coordinate their efforts with the appropriate HSI
International Affairs Attaché. Once a formal request for assistance has been initiated, the
Attaché may be able to expedite the request if he or she has had advance notice of its arrival and
nature.
A. Obtaining International Assistance
International assistance may be obtained through various means. An “unofficial”
type of assistance may be more easily obtained from the Attaché responsible for the
area of interest. “Official” assistance may be obtained through treaties, agreements,
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and letters rogatory. All official requests for assistance are handled by the AUSA
through the DOJ Office of International Affairs (OIA). If the local AUSA is
unfamiliar with this area, SAs requiring information regarding international
assistance may contact the DOJ AFMLS attorneys through the 24-hour command
center at (202) 514-1263.
B. Plea Agreements Involving Foreign Assets
In cases involving plea agreements with known assets held in foreign countries that
cannot be repatriated to the United States by the defendant(s), the plea agreement
should contain an explicit admission by the defendant(s) that the foreign-based
property represents criminal proceeds. Such admissions may be sufficient to enable
the foreign authorities to forfeit the funds if, for some reason, the United States is
unable to do so.
C. Foreign Forfeiture
When forfeiture has been achieved in a foreign country and monies are to be
repatriated to the United States for deposit into the TFF, the funds are to be wire
transferred to the Treasury suspense account. For more information and specific wire
transfer instructions, AIRG SAs should contact AFU.
When documenting foreign seizures and forfeitures in SEACATS Incident Reports,
AIRG SAs should use their local port code.
12.8

Joint Investigations

In multi-agency investigations, the decision as to who will be responsible for identifying and
seizing the assets should be made at the onset of the investigation. If an Organized Crime Drug
Enforcement Task Force case is originated by HSI, the AIRG is to be designated as the asset
seizing agency. This should be documented and included in the case file if the AIRG is
involved.
Provided that HSI participated directly or indirectly in the law enforcement effort that resulted in
the seizure, AIRG SAs must ensure that a Federal Contribution Form (FCF) is filed in the event
of seizures made in a joint investigation with a DOJ agency. (See DOJ publication, “Federal
Contribution Form -- High Level Design: Changes to Equitable Sharing for Federal Agencies,”
dated December 15, 2009, for instructions on the use of the FCF.)
12.9

Retention of Seized Property

In special circumstances, seized vehicles or other property may be retained and placed in service.
For more information, SAs should consult OI Directive 05-008 entitled, “Retention of Forfeited
Property for Official Use,” dated July 30, 2005, or as updated.
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12.10 Notice to Property Owners of Illegal Activity
When real property is being used as a facilitating property, a letter may be sent to the legal
owner of the property to put him or her on notice that his or her property is being used to
facilitate an illegal activity. The letter informs the owner that continued illegal use of the
property makes the property subject to seizure and forfeiture. The letter requests from the owner
a response in writing as to the steps the owner is taking to eliminate and/or prevent the continued
use of the property for illegal activity. If the illegal use of the property continues, this
correspondence may be used in overcoming an “innocent owner” defense on the part of the
property owner. SAs wishing to use such a letter should consult with the appropriate AUSA and
OCC concerning the recommended format and language for the letter.

Chapter 13. SEIZURE PROCESSING, SEACATS ENTRY, AND ADMINISTRATIVE
GUIDELINES FOR REAL PROPERTY FORFEITURES
13.1

Real Property Pre-Seizure Planning Meeting

A pre-seizure planning meeting should occur prior to taking real property into custody, or as
circumstances dictate. The participants should include the AIRG SA, the real property
contractor, the SPS, and the COTR. All requests for the real property contractor services,
including monitoring of the property, should be determined and addressed at this meeting. These
instructions should be included in the disposition order for the real property contractor.
13.2

Pre-Seizure Viewing of the Property

During the post-and-walk phase of real property seizures (see Section 3.10), AIRG SAs should
arrange for a viewing of the property. This viewing is potentially one of the most important
steps in the seizure/forfeiture process; it is the final time when all remaining questions about the
real property must be addressed and when any potential problems are reviewed to ensure that the
seizure and subsequent forfeiture of the property are in the best interest of the Government. It
may also be the only time when all involved parties in the case may view the property prior to
the court’s issuance of a judgment or final order of forfeiture.
The viewing of the property should be accomplished by the least intrusive means possible;
however, it must allow the national property contractor personnel to view the property well
enough to determine if they can accept the property in accordance with the national real property
contract SOW should a judgment be issued by the court. The importance of viewing the
property cannot be stressed enough; it gives all interested parties possibly the only opportunity to
verify the existence and severity of any problems, such as contamination, the presence of
livestock or other animals, and/or the presence of any occupants on the property. The viewing of
the property should be accomplished in one of the following ways:

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A. Drive-by Viewing. This method may be used if it allows the property contractor
personnel to view the property well enough to make a judgment on its acceptability
for forfeiture.
B. Permitted Viewing. If the property cannot be seen adequately during a drive-by
viewing, AIRG SAs, through the USAO, can request permission from the violator or
the violator’s legal representative to enter the property and view any potential
hazards.
C. Writ of Entry. If a drive-by inspection is insufficient and permission cannot be
obtained from the violator or the violator’s legal representative, then the USAO can
apply for a writ of entry from the court to allow the property to be viewed by case
participants.
13.3

Post-and-Walk

Execution of a post-and-walk is a relatively simple process. After obtaining the appropriate
legal documents, the AIRG SA, along with the seized property and contractor personnel, goes to
the property, contacts the owner/occupants, and posts the notice/warrant for arrest in rem as
required by law. The AIRG SA should post the documents at or near the front door/entrance of
the property so that it can be seen easily. After posting the paperwork, the AIRG SA should take
a photograph of the paperwork as evidence that the property was legally and adequately posted.
(Owners/occupants frequently remove the paperwork and some even claim that the property was
not posted.)
To the fullest extent possible, seized property and contractor personnel should view the property,
noting all items that may be of concern or may deter the Government from pursuing forfeiture of
the property. The national real property contractor may also perform a variety of services which
are listed in the SOW. These services include, but are not limited to:
A. Photographing and video recording* the property;
B. Conducting an inventory of the property and its contents*;
C. Appraising the value of the property;
D. Monitoring and overseeing the posted property by means of periodic drive-by
inspections; and
E. Evaluating and/or monitoring operating businesses by performing such functions as
stock inventories and audits of operating and financial records.
*Note: Photographs, video(s), and inventory should be duplicated by the AIRG SA
performing the “post and walk.”
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Upon completion of the “post-and-walk,” the national real property contractor will provide a
summary and initial determination as to the acceptability of the property. In some cases, such as
business or industrial properties, livestock ranches or farms, or properties used to manufacture or
distribute narcotics, it may be necessary to have an Environmental Protection Agency Phase One
Survey accomplished, or to have personnel from a state or local agency view the property to
gauge the severity of any problems and determine any liabilities for which the Government
would become responsible if the property is ultimately forfeited by the court.
It may also be determined that sufficient exigent circumstances exist that make it necessary to
seize the property without notice or opportunity for a pre-seizure hearing. If this is the case, the
Government must first show that a less restrictive measure would not protect the Government’s
interest in the property. Less restrictive measures may include obtaining a restraining order or
requiring the violator to post a bond. It may be discovered that an interlocutory sale or substitute
res should be pursued rather than forfeiture of the property.
It is important to note that the post-and-walk places the property only in the Court’s jurisdiction
and not in the Government’s custody. Since the property is not under seizure, any further
viewing of the property for any reason should be conducted after obtaining permission by one of
the means listed in Section 13.2.
Finally, along with viewing the property, all case participants should review: (1) the post and
summary from the national real property contractor; (2) the property tax identification records
from the city or county tax office; and (3) the title opinion, appraisal, and survey, along with any
other documents obtained. A thorough review of these documents will ensure that any and all
problems have been addressed and that the continued pursuit of forfeiture of the real property is
in the best interest of the Government.
13.4

Non-Custodial Property Considerations
A. Property with a clear title. Although the property is lien free, it still accrues local
property taxes. Even though a lis pendens has been filed with the county, the AIRG
SA should monitor the status of the taxes with the tax assessor’s office to prevent the
sale of the property for back taxes.
B. Mortgaged property with payments being made. AIRG SAs should monitor the
mortgage payments made by the target of the investigation to ensure the integrity of
the note and to prevent foreclosure on the mortgage note.
C. Mortgaged property with no payments being made. The AIRG SA should coordinate
with the AUSA to file a restraining order preventing the financial institution from
foreclosing on the property. If the forfeiture of the property has been included in an
indictment and there is a risk of devaluation, the asset forfeiture AUSA may file a
motion for an interlocutory sale in order to preserve the value of the property. If the

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interlocutory sale is granted, all liens and encumbrances will be satisfied with the
sale’s proceeds, and any remaining proceeds will be placed in an escrow account
pending the conclusion of the judicial proceedings.
13.5

Payment of Real Property Liens

TEOAF will not approve real property lien payments if the lien is not recognized in the final
order of forfeiture. If amending the final order of forfeiture is not practical, then the TEOAF will
accept a letter from the appropriate AUSA stating that the lien in question is valid and should be
paid. It is important to note that it is always preferable to amend the final order of forfeiture; this
option should always be pursued first. In addition, the recognition of the lien in the preliminary
order of forfeiture (see Section 3.11) does not satisfy this requirement. AIRG SAs are
encouraged, through coordination with their AUSA, to identify and document all liens in the
final order of forfeiture prior to providing a copy to the FP&F Seized Property Division.
The process for the disbursement of lien payment checks is handled jointly by the national real
property contractor and FP&F. The contractor forwards a lien payment request package to
TEOAF. The request contains an approval from the FP&F officer assigned to the forfeiture and
a copy of the final order of forfeiture. The package also contains an official request form listing
information relevant to the lien payment, including the name of the payee and the address where
the check should be sent. The check is subsequently sent to the contractor who forwards it to the
payee. If an occasion arises where an AIRG SA must receive the lien payment for later
disbursement, a written justification to TEOAF should accompany the lien payment request
package. The disbursement of a check by an AIRG SA is considered an exceptional event,
which should occur infrequently. (For a more detailed discussion of this subject, SAs should
refer to TEOAF Directive 14, “Expeditious Payment of Liens, Mortgages and Taxes by the
Department of the Treasury,” dated October 1, 1995, included as an attachment to the TEOAF
“Red Book.”)

Chapter 14. FINES, PENALTIES, AND FORFEITURES
14.1

Interaction Between the COTR, the Contract Property Manager, and FP&F

On January 31, 2005, the real property contract previously administered by CBP was officially
moved to TEOAF; corresponding Contracting Officer and COTR responsibilities were
transferred from CBP HQ to TEOAF. Since all real property forfeitures must be handled
judicially with the involvement of HSI, certain field level responsibilities have been shifted from
CBP to ICE.
Beginning on March 1, 2005, HSI began assuming many of the duties and responsibilities that
had been performed in the past by FP&F with regard to the processing of real property
forfeitures. In order to effectively administer this contract, HSI has designated a GS from each

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AIRG to be trained as a COTR. As a COTR, the AIRG GSs are responsible for a number of
duties, including:
A. Tasking the real property contractor for pre-seizure analysis (see Section 3.12)
documents through disposition orders;
B. Consignment of property to the real property contractor;
C. Engaging the real property contractor in pre-seizure meetings;
D. Coordinating sales and/or exit strategies with the real property contractor and the
FP&F officer;
E. Working with the Contractor in meeting judicial requirements outside the scope of
the contract;
F. Working with and providing counsel to the Contracting Officer concerning contract
modifications;
G. Providing input for the Contractor’s award fee assessment;
H. Overseeing seized real property to ensure that the Contractor is meeting SOW
requirements; and
I. Assisting in verifying costs and analyses of cost proposals.
While the transition of this contract shifts most of the contract oversight responsibilities from
CBP to ICE, the FP&F officer will continue to maintain signatory authority for the conveyance
of real property via Government deed at the time of closing. In addition, the FP&F officer will
continue to maintain a legal file on each real property seizure. HSI is responsible for providing
the FP&F officer with copies of relevant documentation, including ownership and encumbrance
reports, title commitments, lis pendens, preliminary and final orders of forfeiture, copies of
chain-of-custody forms (CBP Form 6051S, “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and
Evidence”), copies of disposition orders (CBP Form 7605, “Disposition Order”) warrants of
arrest in rem, appraisal documentation, and any other pertinent documents. The FP&F officer
will also continue to maintain the responsibility of advertising the property during forfeiture
proceedings.
14.2

Responsibilities of Seizing Special Agents

Immediately following a seizure, the AIRG SA should take photographs and a video of the
seized property. If the seized property is a conveyance, the AIRG SA should also complete a
“Vehicle/Vessel/Aircraft Inventory and Receipt” (DHS Form 58). Copies of the inventory,
photographs, and video(s) should be retained in the AIRG case file in addition to any copies
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retained with the seized property file. There have been instances in which the contracted
property manager has damaged seized property, taken photographs after the damage occurred,
and substituted these new photographs for the original pictures taken at the time of the seizure.
Within 5 days of seizing a vehicle, the AIRG SA should complete a lien information research to
determine whether there is enough equity to justify the forfeiture. If the equity is not within the
acceptable range and there is no overwhelming law enforcement purpose for seizure, the
conveyance should be returned to the lien holder.
AIRG SAs must submit all ROIs pertaining to the seizure to FP&F so that the FP&F paralegal
specialist has enough information to prepare the seizure notice. A notice is required by law to be
sent to any and all individuals who may have a financial interest in the seized item.
AIRG SAs must file the court orders (i.e., the preliminary and final orders of forfeiture) with the
appropriate county recorder’s office immediately after receiving them from the USAO. When
these are finalized by the court, all costs concerning the forfeiture are passed to the Government
and the real property contractor manager must be able to proceed to sell the property at the
earliest opportunity. If these documents are not filed, the ownership of the property cannot be
passed to the Government, liens may not be cleared, and the property cannot be sold. AIRG SAs
must provide a copy of the final order of forfeiture to the real property contractor after it has
been filed and stamped by the county recorder’s office.
During the forfeiture process, it is the AIRG SA’s responsibility to perform a physical inspection
(drive-by) every quarter on all real property that is located within the SAC’s AOR to ensure that
the property has not been vandalized, burned down, or otherwise damaged.
14.3

Coordination

Correspondence and backup documents transmitted to FP&F regarding seized property should
reference the FP&F seizure number, not the SEACATS Incident Report number. A copy of each
message and response should be maintained as part of the AIRG case file. Written contact
enables all parties to maintain a hard copy of all communication to assist in settling whatever
disputes may ensue over a particular incident.
The AIRG SA should notify the FP&F officer immediately if any seized item is included in a
criminal indictment. FP&F will then suspend administrative forfeiture of the item pending the
final judicial disposition of the criminal case.
14.4

Using SEACATS to Consign Property to the Real Property Contractor

Following the forfeiture of a real property, the AIRG GS or SA must document the transfer of
the real property to the real property contractor in SEACATS. The following instructions have
been included as a reference guide:

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A.

Accomplishing the Held by Outside Agency (HO) Disposition
In SEACATS, the AIRG GS or SA should accomplish the disposition using the following
procedures; the property may not be released to the real property contractor if there is an
open/active disposition other than “Released – Acceptable (RA)”:
1) From any SEACATS menu screen, type “PMPM” in the “Code” field to access
the “Property Management Menu” function.
2) Press “Enter.” The “SEACATS Customs Property Management Menu” will be
displayed. The cursor will be positioned automatically in the “Option” field.
3) Type “7” in the “Option” field, enter the appropriate FP&F case number in the
“FP&F Case Number” field, and type the desired line item number in the “Line
Number” field. (Typically, real property seizures will be line item “001” and will
not have any sub-line items. The “Sub-Line” field may be left blank.)
4) Press “Enter.” The “SEACATS Property Disposition Record List” screen will be
displayed. Type “X” in the field in front of the appropriate disposition.
5) Press “Enter.” The “SEACATS Accomplish Disposition” screen will be
displayed; complete the following required fields:
a) “Date Accomplished.” Type the 8-digit date on which the action was taken
by HSI; the date format is MMDDYYYY.
b) “Witness.” Type the user identification number of the individual who is
witnessing the disposition.
6) Press “Enter.” SEACATS will display the message, “Record Successfully
Updated.”
B. Adding a Disposition to Consign Property
The COTR-certified AIRG GS or SA should use the following procedures to add a
disposition to consign property to the Contractor:
1) From any SEACATS menu screen, type “PMPM” in the “Code” field.
2) Press “Enter.” The “SEACATS Property Management Menu” screen displays.
3) Type “6” in the “Option” field to access the “SEACATS Accomplish
Disposition” function.

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4) Type the FP&F case number in the next field and the line number of the item in
the “Line Number” field.
5) Press “Enter.” The “Add Disposition” screen will appear.
6) Complete the following required data fields:
a) “Disposition Code.” Type the two-character code identifying the action that
will be taken to dispose of or relinquish rights to a property. To consign the
property to the real property contractor, type “RA.” “RA” signifies “Released
-- Acceptable.”
b) “Date of Issuance.” Type the eight-digit date on which the disposition was
made by the issuing officer. The date format is MMDDYYYY.
7) Press “Enter.” The message “Record Successfully Updated” will appear.
The property must now be released to the contractor.
C. Releasing the Property to the Contractor
The AIRG GS or SA should use the following procedure to release the property to the
Contractor in SEACATS:
1) From the SEACATS main system menu, type “PMRC” in the “Code” field.
2) Press “Enter.” The “SEACATS Property Sub-line Hit List – Release to
Contractor Hit Screen” displays. The cursor will be positioned in the “FP&F
Case Number” field. Type the FP&F case number in this field.
3) Press “Enter.” The “Release to Contractor” screen will appear. Type the code for
the location of the contractor who will be responsible for managing the property
(for real property, the SA or GS has the option of entering “C00.” The real
property contractor can edit this field to enter more specific information.)
4) At the “Custodian” field, type “CTR.”
5) Press “F10.” The message “Property Released to Contractor” will appear.

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Chapter 15. SEACATS INCIDENT REPORTS
15.1

Preparation of a SEACATS Incident Report

The “TOPIC” field of the SEACATS Incident Report should reflect the action (e.g., “Criminal
Indictment of Real Property Located at . . . ” or “$432,000 Seized from Bank of America”). By
being specific, the topic line can be used to readily identify the items seized and assist in
identifying and tracking seizures at a later time.
The “NARRATIVE” portion of the SEACATS Incident Report should give credit to the criminal
investigative group referring the case and its assets to the AIRG for investigation and seizure.
Examples of possible narrative statements are provided below:
A. For a civil forfeiture proceeding:
ON [Date], THE [SAC Office] AIRG CONDUCTED A POSTAND-WALK OF A SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE LOCATED
AT [Address] PURSUANT TO A WARRANT OF ARREST IN
REM, ISSUED IN THE [Judicial District] UNDER JUDICIAL
CASE NUMBER [Court Number]. THE PROPERTY HAD
PREVIOUSLY BEEN PURCHASED WITH DRUG PROCEEDS
IN VIOLATION OF 21 U.S.C. § 881. ON [Date], A NOTICE OF
LIS PENDENS WAS FILED WITH THE [County Recorder/Clerk/
Assessor’s Office]. THE FAIR MARKET VALUE OF THE
PROPERTY IS APPROXIMATELY [Dollar Value of Property].
THERE ARE NO RECORDED LIENS AGAINST THE
PROPERTY. THIS ENFORCEMENT ACTION IS A RESULT
OF INFORMATION ORIGINALLY REFERRED BY [Name of
Criminal Case Investigative Group]. ANY QUESTIONS
REGARDING THIS MATTER SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO
[AIRG Point of Contact’s Name and Phone Number].
B. For a criminal forfeiture proceeding:
ON [Date], [Defendant’s Name] WAS INDICTED FOR
MULTIPLE COUNTS OF NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING AND
MONEY LAUNDERING BY A GRAND JURY UNDER
JUDICIAL CASE NUMBER [Criminal Case Number] ISSUED
IN THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT, [Judicial District]. ALSO
INDICTED WAS ONE REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT
[Address]. ON [Date], A LIS PENDENS WAS FILED WITH THE
[County Recorder/Clerk/Assessor’s Office]. THE FAIR
MARKET VALUE OF THE PROPERTY IS APPROXIMATELY
[Dollar Value of Property]. THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY
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[Dollar Value of Liens] IN LIENS RECORDED AGAINST THE
PROPERTY. THIS ENFORCEMENT ACTION IS A RESULT
OF INFORMATION ORIGINALLY REFERRED BY [Criminal
Case Investigative Group]. ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING
THIS MATTER SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO [AIRG Point of
Contact’s Name and Phone Number].
15.2

Investigations Involving Multiple Seizures

All seizures should be linked to their associated cases. In instances where there are multiple
seizures within one investigation, the AIRG SA should notify FP&F and request that FP&F
assign the same FP&F paralegal specialist to all the seizures. The AIRG SA should notify FP&F
through a notation in the narrative section of the SEACATS Incident Reports and through
separate written communication. Assignment of all of a case’s seizures to a single paralegal
simplifies coordination and ensures that FP&F actions on the multiple seizures occur within the
same time frame.
15.3

Updating the Pre-Seizure Incident Report for Real Property

When requesting pre-seizure analyses and pre-seizure services from the real property contractor,
AIRG SAs enter a pre-seizure analysis request through a SEACATS Incident Report bearing the
incident code “PA.” Procedures for requesting a pre-seizure analysis are discussed in Section
9.10 of this Handbook.
After AIRG SAs complete a post-and-walk on a real property in a civil forfeiture case or after
the real property is indicted in a criminal forfeiture case, the AIRG SAs must update the
SEACATS Incident Report to reflect the changed status of the real property. For civil forfeitures
involving post-and-walks, AIRG SAs will change the “PA” incident code to “PW.” For criminal
forfeitures, AIRG SAs will replace the “PA” with a “PI.” After changing the code to reflect the
new status of the property, AIRG SAs will update the narrative section of the SEACATS
Incident Report to document the details of the post-and-walk or indictment and the filing of the
lis pendens.
When the court issues a final order of forfeiture, AIRG SAs must update the SEACATS Incident
Report again to document the transfer of the property to the Government. AIRG SAs will
change the “PI” or “PW” incident code to “SZ.” They will also update the line item of the real
property to reflect the legal status as “SZ.” Once the property is turned over to the real property
contractor for management, AIRG SAs must transfer the property to the real property contractor
in SEACATS using procedures set forth in Section 14.4 of this Handbook.
AIRG SAs must not take premature credit for a seizure of real property in SEACATS. The “PI”
or “PW” status code in the SEACATS Incident Report will be changed to “SZ” only after the
final order of forfeiture is received from the court. If a premature change is made and the

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property is returned to the owner, revising the SZ to show that the property was not seized takes
intercession from a SEACATS National Program Manager.
Sometimes, the court will issue a preliminary order of forfeiture that specifies that the property is
to be physically taken into the custody of the Government. In these cases, the AIRG SA should
seize the property and change the status of the SEACATS Incident Report to “SZ.” This allows
expenses to be incurred and charged to the seizure by the real property contractor and FP&F.
Property cannot be turned over to the real property contractor without a seizure number. If the
preliminary order does not contain language directing the Government to take the property into
custody, seizure should be delayed until the court issues the final order of forfeiture.
15.4

Payments in Lieu of Forfeiture

A payment in lieu of forfeiture is an appropriate method that may be used to settle any matter in
which there is property that is subject to forfeiture. A payment in lieu of forfeiture occurs when
the violator retains the real property or other asset that is subject to forfeiture and makes a
monetary payment in its place.
Under the Treasury Forfeiture Fund Act of 1992, 31 U.S.C. § 9703, a payment in lieu of
forfeiture is considered to be a “proceed from forfeiture” and therefore may be deposited into the
TFF.
A payment in lieu of forfeiture is documented in a manner similar to a seizure. The AIRG SA
enters a SEACATS Incident Report and the funds are turned over to CBP and deposited into the
TFF after they are administratively forfeited.
When entering a SEACATS Incident Report for money in lieu of forfeiture, the AIRG SA
converts the “PI” or “PW” Incident Report to an “SZ” Incident Report. The legal status for the
real property line item must be changed to “SZ” (the only code allowed by the system) and the
custodian must be changed to “SPC.” The AIRG SA should turn the money received from the
violator over to FP&F.
The AIRG SA should then request that FP&F modify the real property line item in SEACATS
by changing the physical status to “RS” (released substitution). FP&F, at the AIRG SA’s
request, should also create a sub-line item under the real property’s line item number. (Most HSI
personnel do not have access to the SEACATS functions necessary to accomplish these steps.)
This sub-line item is where the AIRG SA should document the monetary payment in lieu of the
real property. The AIRG SA must record the substitution this way in order to establish a
relationship between the money and the real property for forfeiture purposes and to allow the
costs expended by the real property contractor to be applied against the sub-line item.
If the money in lieu of forfeiture consists of a single payment, the line item for the real property
should be closed following the payment. The code “SPC” should be entered as the custodian for

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the sub-line item (the monetary payment). This will allow FP&F to continue with the disposition
of the money.
In cases involving multiple payments, the line item for the real property will not be closed out
until all payments are received. “SPC” should be used as the custodian code for the sub-line
item each time a payment is received. An ROI must be written explaining the details of the plea
agreement and the structured payment plan as each payment is received.
If a lis pendens has been filed against the property, a release should be obtained from the AUSA
and filed with the appropriate county recorder’s office after all payments have been received.

Chapter 16. EQUITABLE SHARING
16.1

Approval Authority

AIRG SAs have no authority to approve equitable sharing and must not promise any amount in
equitable sharing to agencies participating in a joint investigation.
The Unit Chief, AFU, may approve requests for equitable sharing of amounts under $800,000.
The Executive Associate Director of HSI may approve requests for amounts of $800,000 or more
but less than $1 million. Equitable sharing requests for amounts of $1 million or more must be
approved by the Director of TEOAF. (See ICE Delegation Order (DO) 73001.1, “Authority to
Determine the Equitable Sharing of Forfeited Property and Monetary Instruments,” dated
December 19, 2005, or as updated) and OI DO 06-001, “Authority to Determine the Equitable
Sharing of Forfeited Property and Monetary Instruments Within the Office of Investigations,”
dated January 16, 2006, or as updated.)
16.2

Filing Instructions

Agencies may request equitable sharing by filing a “Request for Transfer of Property Seized/
Forfeited by a Treasury Agency” (TD F 92-22.46). Domestic agencies, whether federal, state, or
local, must file this request with HSI within 60 days of the seizure.
Generally, the agency will complete TD F 92-22.46 and submit it to the asset sharing coordinator
for the SAC office conducting the investigation. A separate sharing request must be completed
for each seizure. It is the responsibility of the AIRG GS, however, to identify the asset sharing
coordinator for his or her SAC office and to ascertain the local SAC procedures regarding
preparation of equitable sharing packages. Both the AIRG GS and the AIRG SAs must ensure
that all equitable sharing requests are submitted to the asset sharing coordinator for their
respective SAC office.
The requested share must be delineated in percentages, not dollar amounts. Equitable sharing
means just that. Requests for equitable sharing should represent the share commensurate with
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the actual participation provided by the requesting agency. The percentages requested should be
realistic and substantiated by the requesting agency’s participation. The narrative portion of TD
F 92-22.46 must be specifically detailed as to both quantity and quality of the requesting
agency’s participation with respect to a particular seizure. The higher the requested percentage,
the higher the requirement is for providing accurate and specific information with respect to
quality and quantity of participation.
16.3

Filing Instructions for International Agencies

There is no time limit for foreign law enforcement agencies or governments to make a request
for asset sharing. The agency or government may make its request verbally or in writing. It can
be an informal note or formal letter. This request may be made to the SAC office, the HSI
International Affairs Attaché, the Department of State, the DOJ OIA, the AIRG GS, the criminal
case GS, the AIRG SA, or criminal case SA. The request may be made pursuant to Letters
Rogatory, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, a Memorandum of Understanding, a Memorandum
of Agreement, or other standing or case-specific international sharing agreement. The DOJ OIA
is a “one-stop shop” for international sharing with foreign countries.
If an investigation involves sharing assets with a foreign government, the AIRG SA should
inform the asset sharing coordinator in the local SAC office that an international asset sharing
request may be forthcoming. The asset sharing coordinator needs to include this information in
the package with the asset sharing requests received from domestic agencies. Even though an
international equitable sharing request may take over a year or two to be completed, the funds
need to be obligated and set aside at the time any sharing occurs with state and/or local agencies.
16.4

Sharing and Real Property

In cases where HSI requests asset sharing from federal agencies participating in the DOJ Asset
Forfeiture Fund, requests should be made by submitting an FCF. When computing the hours
expended by HSI during the investigation, hours spent by contractors are not to be included with
the HSI hours. Instead, a notation should be made reflecting “contractor expenses incurred for
specialized expertise totaling [dollar amount].”
HSI asset sharing requests to other federal agencies, as well as FCFs submitted to HSI, should be
filed with the respective agency at the time that the property is posted or indicted. AIRG SAs
should not wait for the final order of forfeiture to file their asset sharing requests or to request
asset sharing requests from their counterparts in other federal agencies.
From the time real property is taken under the jurisdiction of the court – whether through
criminal indictment, protective order, lis pendens, or arrest warrant in rem – it takes an average
of 21-36 months until forfeiture is realized. If an FCF is not filed at the time of the post-andwalk or indictment, the requesting agency must then file within the 60-day window beginning on
the date of actual seizure, which may be 21-36 months later. (The 60-day window begins when
the forfeiture order is received and the property is taken into “true” custody.) It is best,
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therefore, to complete the asset sharing request at the beginning of the process so that the request
is not forgotten.
16.5

Reverse Sharing

In instances where HSI is initiating forfeiture proceedings against a property under Title 21 asset
forfeiture provisions in an HSI-led investigation, an FCF will be filed at the time of the post-andwalk or indictment. The FCF will be provided to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),
along with the appropriate ROI completed on a DEA-6 form.
In completing the FCF, AIRG SAs must ensure that “Section II” of the form, “Participating
Agency,” reflects the local SAC office; the “Contact Person” listed on the FCF should be the
local Asset Sharing Coordinator, not a HQ official. The seizure number must be on the FCF in
the space labeled “Participating Agency Case or Seizure Number.” The SAC Asset Sharing
Coordinator will forward a copy of the completed FCF to the HSI HQ Asset Sharing
Coordinator.
Checks received at field offices as the result of FCFs should be forwarded to the Reverse Asset
Sharing Coordinator in AFU at HSI HQ for deposit. A copy of the completed FCF must
accompany the check. This process should be handled by the Asset Sharing Coordinator in each
local SAC office.
Note: A new system is being implemented by the DOJ Forfeiture Fund. Under this system,
future reverse asset sharing funds will be sent to HSI via electronic funds transfer. Payments
will be made in batches, and the Reverse Asset Sharing Coordinator at HSI HQ will reconcile
the incoming payments with the completed FCFs.

Chapter 17. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS INVOLVING CONTRACTORS WORKING
WITH THE AIRGs
17.1

Contract

The Department of the Treasury and DOJ have both established strict rules and guidelines for
agency conduct regarding contract employees. Most importantly, the contract states that contract
employees hired to assist the AIRGs shall not be used for any purpose other than for asset
seizure and forfeiture work. Contract employees are permitted to perform only those duties that
are specifically delineated in their description of duties.
Problems and/or questions pertaining to contract employees and related responsibilities should
be directed to the ACOTR in AFU.

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17.2

Contractor Access to TECS and Grand Jury Materials

AFU should establish contract employees as TECS users prior to the employees reporting to the
AIRG. If this has not occurred when contractors report for duty, however, AIRG GSs can
establish contractors as TECS users through the local System Control Officers. This is
accomplished by completion of a memorandum with the employee’s background certification
attached, as provided for by ICE Directive 1-3.0, “ICE Screening Criteria for Federal, State, or
Local Law Enforcement, Correctional, and Mission Support Personnel Supporting ICE
Programs,” dated October 18, 2007, or as updated).
Under no circumstances should a contractor act as a case SA, write an ROI, or input case
management hours. If a contractor develops information relevant to an investigation, such
information should be included in an ROI by the AIRG SA.
Contractors may have access to and use grand jury information while assisting AIRG SAs in the
course of their investigations. Prior to utilizing that information, contract employees need to be
included on the 6(e) letter completed by the USAO. AIRG SAs should be aware that, depending
on the district, local USAO policies and procedures may limit contractors’ access to grand jury
materials. AIRG SAs should check with their local AUSAs.
17.3

Testimony

Generally, contract employees are discouraged from testifying. AIRG SAs and GSs should
avoid placing contract employees in positions which would require their testimony later. For
example, AIRG SAs and GSs should not place a contract employee in a position in which he or
she is the primary discoverer of evidence during the execution of a search warrant.
At times, however, the contract employees’ testimony may be required by the court. If
testimony by the contract employees is unavoidable, such testimony should be limited to such
things as their work product and/or chain of custody reference documents which may have been
utilized in the preparation of said work product.
If a contract employee will be required to testify, the AIRG GS should make a courtesy
notification to the contractor’s employer. Under no circumstances are the specifics of any
investigation or prosecution to be discussed with the contract management or attorneys.
References to the nature of the testimony should be discussed in the broadest of terms, without
revealing targets of the investigation or compromising ongoing strategies.
17.4

Interaction Between the AIRG Group Supervisor and Contract Employees

The AIRG GS is responsible for acting as the Quality Assurance Evaluator (QAE) for asset
forfeiture contract employees. The QAE is the specific on-site government representative with
the authority to manage the day-to-day managerial and technical interaction with the contractor

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personnel. The AIRG GS must ensure that the contract employees perform only those duties that
are specifically delineated in their description of duties.
The GS must certify all hours worked by the contractor employees prior to them submitting their
hours to their employer. All miscellaneous expenses and travel costs must also be reviewed by
the GS. The GS shall maintain a record of the total hours worked by the contractors.
The AIRG GS is not the contract employees’ supervisor, nor do the contract employees work for
HSI. References by HSI personnel to contract employees in these terms are not only inaccurate
but potentially actionable.
17.5

Work Schedule

The contract employees’ hours and overtime are established by their employer’s contract with
HSI in coordination with the local office. All overtime must be approved by the HSI HQ
ACOTR.
17.6

Contractor Performance Awards

Contract employees must not be recognized through the HSI award mechanisms. Contract
companies have their own incentive programs to reward the contributions of their contract
employees.
17.7

Training and Travel

Before engaging in any travel or participating in any training, contractors and their respective
AIRGs must obtain AFU’s approval. Contractor employees’ travel is invoiced and reimbursed
by the employing company.

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Appendix A

SUPERSEDED DOCUMENTS
The Asset Forfeiture Handbook supersedes the following policy documents. This list is
not all-inclusive:
Legacy U.S. Customs Service (USCS) Office of Investigations (OI) document
- Special Agent Handbook Chapter 25, “Asset Removal Process” (May 20, 1992)
Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service document
- Operations Instruction 274, “Seizure and forfeiture of conveyances” (undated).
ICE OI Memoranda
- “Forfeiture Funding and the Real and General Property Contracts” (October 22, 2004)
- “Unannounced Inspections at Seized/Forfeited Property” (October 27, 2004)
- “Legacy INS Seized/Detained Property – Firearms” (January 3, 2005)
- “Annual Inventory of Seized/Forfeited Property” (May 15, 2005)
- “Asset Sharing Field Contact List” (June 17, 2005)
- “Asset Identification and Removal Groups and Tenure of AIRG Personnel” (January
30, 2007)

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Appendix B

ACRONYMS
A
ACOTR
AFMLS
AFU
AIRG
AOR
AUSA

Assistant Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative
Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section
Asset Forfeiture Unit
Asset Identification and Removal Group
Area of Responsibility
Assistant United States Attorney

B
C
CAFRA
CBP
CFA
CI
COTR

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Computer Forensics Agent
Confidential Informant
Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative

D
DEA
DHS
DO
DOJ

Drug Enforcement Administration
Department of Homeland Security
Delegation Order
Department of Justice

E
F
FCF
FP&F

Federal Contribution Form
Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures

G
GS
GS

General Schedule
Group Supervisor

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H
HB
HQ
HSI

Handbook
Headquarters
Homeland Security Investigations

I
ICE
INS

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Immigration and Naturalization Service

J–N
O
OCC
O&E
OI
OIA

Office of the Chief Counsel
Owner and Encumbrance
Office of Investigations
Office of International Affairs

P
Q
QAE

Quality Assurance Evaluator

R
RICO
ROI

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization
Report of Investigation

S
SA
SAC
SAMEPH
SEACATS
SOW
SPS
SUA

Special Agent
Special Agent in Charge
Seized Asset Management and Enforcement Procedures Handbook
Seized Assets and Case Tracking System
Statement of Work
Seized Property Specialist
Specified Unlawful Activity

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T
TD F
TEOAF
TFF

Treasury Department Form
Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture
Treasury Forfeiture Fund

U
USAO
USC
USCS

United States Attorney’s Office
United States Code
United States Customs Service

V-Z

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