Pubdate: Fri, 23 Aug 2002
Source: Las Vegas Sun (NV)
Contact:  2002 Las Vegas Sun, Inc
Author: Sandra Chereb, Associated Press 
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


RENO, Nev. (AP) - Thirteen years after federal officials cracked what was
called the largest marijuana smuggling operation in the West, local law
enforcement agencies got a share of the latest assets seized from

Nevada U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden on Friday presented nine state and local law
enforcement agencies, including six from Nevada and California, with checks
totaling $2.2 million. Agencies from Hawaii, Texas and Colorado also
received assets. 

The money comes from the forfeiture of a self-storage business and a
residence in Hawaii owned by fugitive Brian Degen, a former cohort of
convicted kingpin Ciro Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif. 

"They grew rich selling their kilos of marijuana and they invested their
assets in properties, cars and accounts," Bogden said during a news

"These agencies were able to round up those figures. ... and dismantle this
marijuana operation." 

Authorities said the smuggling ring took root in the early 1970s and grew
over the next 20 years into an international organization operating
primarily between Southeast Asia and the West Coast of the United States. 

It eventually spanned seven states, 14 countries and involved more than 100
people who distributed more than 132,000 pounds of marijuana in the United

"By coming together as a task force and sharing resources and manpower, we
were able to shut down a major marijuana trafficking organization," said Tim
Landrum, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration field office in Las Vegas. 

To date, assets totaling $8.2 million have been seized, with about half the
proceeds going to local and state agencies that assisted in the case, Bogden
said. More forfeitures are being sought. 

Mancuso and Degen were among 17 top operators indicted in October 1989 by a
federal grand jury in Reno on multiple charges of drug trafficking and
racketeering . 

Mancuso pleaded guilty a year later to one count of operating a continuing
criminal enterprise and began cooperating with federal agents. 

The wealthy Squaw Valley developer also was the government's star witness
against his former defense lawyer, Patrick Hallinan, who was charged by
federal prosecutors with racketeering for allegedly assisting the $250
million international drug ring. 

Hallinan, the brother of San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan,
was acquitted by a federal court jury in Reno in 1995. 

Mancuso was sentenced in 1995 to nine years in prison. He was released March
31, 2000, according to Bureau of Prisons records. 

Degen remains a fugitive and is believed to be living in Switzerland,
authorities said.
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