U.S. Attorneys get 8,000 percent return on annual budget

Here’s one performance Wall Street will have trouble matching: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says his office returned 8,000 percent of its annual budget last year. Steve Cohen sells art to pay legal bills

“It is fair to say the taxpayers have gotten a great return on their investment,” said Bharara, trumpeting the $2.7 billion in forfeiture actions the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York obtained since last January.

The office also won $1.06 billion in restitution, criminal fines and special assessments — as well as $149.8 million in civil actions.

“This $4 billion represents nearly 80 times the office’s annual budget,” Bharara noted.

The biggest haul came from J.P. Morgan Chase’s forfeiture of $1.7 billion for its violations of the Bank Secrecy Act committed in connection with the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, a release noted.

The second-biggest contributor was Stamford-based SAC Capital, which is paying $900 million in criminal fines for insider trading and forfeiting $900 million.

Among the stranger items on the list: a 10th century Cambodian sculpture is returning to Asia and a Mongolian Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton is returning to the Gobi desert.

Forfeited funds are generally deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and the Department of Treasury Fund, the release said. The forfeited funds are used to restore money to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.

Last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York returned more than $66 million to crime victims, the report said. Of the $2.7 billion forfeited since last January, more than $1.8 million is expected to be returned to victims.

More information here.

Tim Loh