Van De Veld: feds have no right to money - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Van De Veld: feds have no right to money

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Attorney Curtis Van De Veld is scheduled to appear before District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood tomorrow morning to explain why he doesn't intend to turn over $30,000 he was paid in drug proceeds.  The attorney believes the feds have no right to the money he says was already spent. 

Van De Veld doesn't believe the feds have the authority to seize and forfeit the money he was paid to represent Kenrick Gajo.  Back in January police executed a search warrant at the Gajo & Sons Auto Body Shop as they had reason to believe Gajo was dealing drugs from the business.

Van De Veld says his client agreed to cooperate with authorities after a plea agreement had been negotiated between himself and Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco.  That plea deal allowed Gajo to plead guilty to a single drug possession charge in exchange for cooperating with police about drug sources and cohorts. 

According to court documents, Van De Veld says that cooperation was to also include police officers involved in the distribution of drugs that Gajo may have had information about as well as a substantial drug target.  The Guam Police Department isn't commenting on whether there is, in fact, an ongoing investigation. 

Acting Police Chief Frank Ishizaki said he hasn't been briefed on that matter, telling KUAM News, "If an investigation needs to be done, we'll investigate it.  But I don't know that we have any specific links to any officers at this point."

Gajo also told authorities he had details about an unsolved homicide of a woman who was found dead inside a burning car in Mangilao in 1998.  He turned over more than $170,000 to police and as part of the plea agreement, police gave Van De Veld $30,000 in $20 denominations.

The attorney stopped representing Gajo in March when Attorney David Lujan took over the case. Lujan also sent a letter to Van De Veld, demanding the immediate payment of the $30,000 he'd been paid by Gajo and said that if he failed to do so, the matter would be reported to the ethics committee.

Van De Veld, however, contends that the money he received was already spent and part of an "open and honest" deal that he worked out for his client. The attorney argues the District Court lacks jurisdiction since it was the Superior Court that issued the warrant and the funds were seized and forfeited to the Government of Guam. 

Calling himself an "innocent owner", Van De Veld claims the federal government has compromised its rights to forfeiture and would also be violating the due process rights of himself and Gajo as spelled out in the plea agreement.  As for an internal affairs investigation that was launched into some $9,000 that was reported to be missing when police deposited the money, the acting chief says he had a briefing with the FBI today and they believe that there wasn't a theft but more likely a miscounting of the cash.

"We had officers that had been working for longer than 24 hours, and I think probably they sloppy in their counting.  And I'd like to believe that and that was the assessment I got this morning, so absent of anything different then I will proceed in that direction," said Ishizaki.

Van De Veld meanwhile is scheduled to appear in the District Court to present his arguments at nine o'clock.

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