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Southern Illinois fraud-collection efforts pay off, U.S. attorney says


From Illinois Business Journal news services

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – Stephen R. Wigginton, United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that his office collected $19,428,426.20 in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year 2015. Of this amount, $9,337,630.59 was collected in criminal actions and $10,090,795.61 was collected in civil actions.

Additionally, the Southern District of Illinois worked with other United States Attorney’s Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $36,117,452.46 in cases pursued jointly with these offices. Of this amount, $14,468.49 was collected in criminal actions and $36,102,983.97 was collected in civil actions.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced on Thursday that the Justice Department collected $23.1 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015. The number represents more than 7.5 times the approximately $2.93 billion of the Justice Department’s combined appropriations for the 93 U.S. attorneys’ offices and the main litigating divisions in that same period.

In a statement, Lynch praised prosecutors for the achievement, and Wigginton pledged that his office will continue its efforts.

“The honest and law-abiding citizens of Southern Illinois deserve no less than our best efforts, and, I can assure them that they will continue to receive those best efforts on their behalf. As always, no legal avenue to collect debts owed the United States will go unused,” he said in a statement.

Wigginton highlighted that his office recovered more than $7.75 million from a mortgage fraud case in the Carbondale area and a joint collection of more than $25 million from fraud in contracts out of Scott Air Force Base.

Individual United States Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the United States and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration and Department of Education.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $537,950.00 in asset forfeiture actions in FY 2015. Forfeited assets deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.

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