After reportedly spending over $1 million from asset forfeiture funds on a political consultant for over 10 years, former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes may now face felony larceny charges.
The New York City Department of Investigations (DOI) subpoenaed—and obtained—over 6,000 emails sent to or received by Hynes on his official Kings County District Attorney (KCDA) email account. In its report, DOI claims that a consulting firm run by Mortimer Matz was paid $2,682 a week out of the state asset forfeiture fund for “public relations and communications services rendered.” In 2012 and 2013, that consulting firm received almost $220,000.
Yet according to DOI,
…it appears that Matz provided few if any actual public relations and communications services to the KCDA. Instead, as demonstrated by the Matz e-mails described herein, review suggests that Matz was serving primarily if not exclusively as a political consultant to Hynes personally, and that he had a major role in orchestrating Hynes’ 2013 reelection campaign.
Hynes was in office for 24 years before being defeated this past fall. Between 2003 and 2013, KCDA paid Matz’s consulting firm around $1.1 million out of state asset forfeiture funds.
These funds include the proceeds from both civil and criminal forfeiture. The latter includes the ill-gotten gains from convicted criminals. But under civil forfeiture, someone does not have to be convicted of or a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose his or her property. In 85 percent of cases pursued by the NYPD, the owners are never charged with a crime.
According to the Institute for Justice, under New York law, police, DA’s offices and other law enforcement officials can keep up to 60 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property. In 2012, KCDA forfeited over $1.5 million worth of property under the state’s forfeiture laws, keeping nearly $335,000.
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice