Feds want seized money AND lawyer's cash - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Feds want seized money AND lawyer's cash

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The federal government not only has asked for a preliminary order of forfeiture for $137,687 that was seized and taken into evidence following a search warrant at the Gajo & Sons Auto Body Shop - Uncle Sam is also pursuing money that was paid to a local attorney.

"You kept the $30,000?" Attorney Curtis Van De Veld was asked, to which he replied, "I was paid for services I provided, and I believe that the money is properly paid to me."

But if the feds have their way, that money could be taken into federal custody.  In April, Van De Veld said he had been paid $30,000 in cash, to represent a client, Kenrick Gajo, who surrendered close to $200,000 to authorities when a search warrant was executed at the body shop in January.

The night police were going to execute the search warrant, Gajo agreed to cooperate with authorities and retained Van De Veld, who worked with Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco to craft a plea agreement.  Gajo was allowed to keep more than $7,000 cash and his personal property and be charged with possession of a controlled substance. In exchange he agreed to give up drug sources and cohorts as well as information he clamed he had about a 1998 murder of a woman who was found dead near Route 15, the AG's Office agreed to give him immunity and no jail time.

The deal also allowed for Van De Veld to be paid with the drug proceeds. Court documents state that pursuant to the plea bargain made that night, Police Officer Frank M. Santos gave the lawyer $30,000 in $20 denominations - instead of submitting the money into evidence along with the other $137,000 that was seized.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, however, has now asked a federal judge to have that money that was paid to Van De Veld and the $137,000 all forfeited.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Johnson filed a verified complaint of forfeiture indicating that the money given to Van De Veld represents monies furnished by persons in exchange for a controlled substance.

KUAM News spoke with Van De Veld (who no longer represents Gajo), late this afternoon.  He said, "The government was well aware of what it was doing," adding that it shocks his sense of right and wrong that the government can renege on an agreement that he says was dealt openly and honestly. Van De Veld believes the federal government has no interest in this matter and forfeiture is wrong.  When asked whether he would turn over the $30,000, the defense lawyer said the money has been spent and no longer exists, so therefore there is nothing to forfeit.

The Guam Police Department meanwhile continues to investigate whether close to $10,000 was stolen or whether police miscounted the money as the original evidence custody receipt showed more money had been seized than what was actually turned over and deposited.

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