Crime Trackers

Jun 19, 2013 2:15 AM by Lupita Murillo

RICO funds help fund Southern Arizona law enforcement agencies

TUCSON - Fighting crime is not cheap. In these challenging economic times, it can be difficult. That's why RICO funds or forfeited racketeering money comes in handy.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department purchased a state of the art equipped helicopter that criminals helped buy.

Rico funds paid 40% of the $3.6 million tab.

That's money seized from criminals such as the Dominguez Drug Trafficking organization.

In 2004, police seized $10 million in property, vehicles and cash. Also in this case, criminals funded their own investigation. Tom Rankin heads the Asset Forfeiture Unit for the Pima County Attorney's office.

"Rico funds were used during the investigation to fund the wire tap itself, and at one point in the investigation to provide witness protection services. There were some witnesses that were threatened and needed to be hidden," he says.

RICO brings in between $800,000 to $1,000,000 a year for the Sheriff's Dept.

Bureau Chief Chris Radtke says, "When the economy tanked and we lost a good part of our budget, we could absolutely not survive without RICO."

RICO generates enough cash for the Sheriff's Department to equip deputies with the necessary tools such as tasers and bullet proof vests to protect themselves and the public.

"We had a situation several years ago when a deputy was shot point blank in the chest. And without the body armor he most likely wouldn't be here and he's still working with us today," says Deputy Edward Curtain.

The patrol car and the equipment inside it, even the emergency lights all paid for by the criminals.

"RICO is not a continuing revenue stream that we can count on all the time, that's why we don't pay salaries with that money. It's used for equipment, training and building improvements," Bureau Chief Radtke says.

So the saying "crime doesn't pay" holds true for the criminals, but their loss is the public's gain.
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