Asset Forfeiture Unit & Financial Litigation Program | 2022 National Crime Victims' Service Awards
The Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Financial Litigation Program in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee is extraordinarily committed to recovering illegally obtained funds and returning them to victims of crime. From fiscal year 2018 through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2021, the program collected more than $3 million in illegally obtained funds and distributed them to victims of crime through restoration and restitution payments. Their innovative approaches and practices have substantially benefitted Tennessee crime victims who suffered financial harm as a result of criminal conduct.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Financial Litigation Program received the Crime Victims Financial Restoration Award. Visit the OVC Gallery for more information about her work to support victims of crime.
DEB PHILLIPS: Our victims were underserved. We were treading water in asset forfeiture and in financial litigation. So, we looked to figure out what we needed to do to fix that.
MARK WILDASIN: We were coming in on the back end of criminal cases. And at that point, it's really too late to get the money back for victims. Assets dissipate. They're sold, they're hidden, they're transferred. You have to be on the front end. So, we started working with our criminal prosecutors early in the process. If there is a conviction, the assets are there to return to the victims.
DEB PHILLIPS: We took the Asset Forfeiture person, put them in the Civil Unit, so they have more tools, and made them independent. We started with our weekly meetings.
Let's go through and get our updates from everybody.
MARK WILDASIN: We work with the Marshals Service, with probation, with federal law enforcement.
DEB PHILLIPS: And we had everybody there who could weigh in and say, “No, that's not going to work or yes, that's going to work.”
MATT BLACKBURN: We've really improved our ability to get on garnishments.
DEB PHILLIPS: When the victims' names were changing or victims were moving, it was--there's this huge gap there. And we figured out how to fix that problem. We have every case on TOPS. We basically bug the heck out of everybody in the Criminal Division on every single case, from beginning to end.
JOHN HERNANDEZ: We worked all together to create this pamphlet.
WOMAN: Oh, my gosh, this is going to be great.
DEB PHILLIPS: We had victims who were coming to the end of their judgement order, so we decided to put together the pamphlet that would explain what they needed and make it very simple for them.
JOHN HERNANDEZ: Now they're actively reaching out. A lot of times victims are aware of assets that we are not aware of, so they help us, in turn, help them.
DEB PHILLIPS: And when we were just treading water, we probably collected about $100,000 or less for victims. This year, we are on track to collect $4 million. You can really do something great and help people.
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