DENVER (LAWFUEL) – The Colorado National Guard, for the first time ever, received an asset forfeiture sharing check this afternoon at a ceremony that took place inside the State Capitol. The check was a result of a Western Slope marijuana investigation, involving the Guard as well as a number of federal agencies. Agencies participating in the ceremony included the United States Attorney, and representatives from the Bureau of Land Management Enforcement Division, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Colorado National Guard.
Major General H. Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General of Colorado, was presented a $93,701 check for the National Guard’s role in the “Topliss” marijuana investigation, which included asset forfeiture. Beth and Alfred Topliss were arrested for growing marijuana on their property in rural Mesa County. A search warrant executed on the property resulted in a bizarre stand-off, where Mr. Topliss put a gun to his head and said, “I’ll kill the hostage if you don’t back-off.” The hostage was Mr. Topliss himself. The subject was disarmed, and ultimately he and his wife were convicted on state felony charges of possession of marijuana.
Under federal law, property involved in various crimes, including drug cultivation, may be seized and forfeited. In this case, the IRS was the seizing agency, at the request of the Mesa County Drug Task Force. The United States Attorney’s Office filed a forfeiture action against the Topliss’ property in U.S. District Court in Denver. As a result of the case, a court order was issued, forfeiting $375,000, which was the property’s value. Under federal law, the funds go to agencies involved in the investigation, for programs that aid law enforcement in apprehending criminals as well as to youth drug prevention programs. The Mesa County Drug Task Force also received a check during the event for $112,441.
A new Colorado law, Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 16-13-601 and 28-3-1303 (2) designate the Colorado National Guard as a law enforcement agency for the limited purpose of participating in the Federal Asset Forfeiture Program. This new law allows the Guard to receive forfeiture sharing monies from cases in which they play a direct role in investigating. The statutes do not expand the law enforcement authority in relation to other types of operations.
“No one should profit from crime,” said United States Attorney Troy Eid. “Besides facing prison and fines, drug-traffickers risk forfeiting their ill-gotten gains.”
“In this case, the BLM assisted in identifying the marijuana grow, and worked closely with other federal and state agencies to arrest the drug traffickers,” said BLM Enforcement Special Agent in Charge John Silence.
“Part of this investigation was the seizure of the drug dealers’ property, which was ill gotten gains of their criminal activity.” IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher M. Sigerson said, “CI specializes in following the money in illegal narcotic operations, enabling increased criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures thereby depriving criminals of the fruits of their crimes.”
IRS Criminal Investigation participated in the legislative process by providing persuasive testimony in favor of the bill to allow participation by the Colorado National Guard in the federal asset sharing program.
“I am so proud of everyone involved,” said Major General H. Michael Edwards. “This check is a great symbol of the outstanding support our Colorado National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force has provided to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.”