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$527K returned to Camden Co. Sheriff's Office

The Camden County Sheriff's Office said it seized $619,000 from Joseph Gomez, of Miami.

CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – After just 70 days of being reinstated in the Federal Seized Asset Program, the Camden County Sheriff's Office has received back from the U.S. Department of Justice more than $527,000 seized in traffic stops in 2011 to assist in the fight against crime, Sheriff Tommy Gregory announced Tuesday.

The program was formally reinstated on Nov. 17.

The DOJ audited just 18 months of ex-Sheriff Bill Smith's 24 years of spending seized asset funds and found he had chosen to misspend about $662,000, according to the Sheriff's Office.

"As a direct result of his flagrant disregard for the rules and requirements of the DOJ as set forth in the Guide to Equitable Sharing for local law enforcement agencies, Smith and the CCSO were barred from participating in the federal seized asset program," the Sheriff's Office wrote in a news release.

Under the Equitable Sharing Program, seized assets are processed by the federal government, and a large portion of those assets are returned to local and state agencies to be used for clearly defined purposes, such as training and equipment.

Gregory said participation in the program allows him to supplement his budget at no additional cost to local taxpayers.

"Reinstatement in this program highlights my commitment to keep our citizens and their property safe while continuing to be financially responsible and fiscally transparent," Gregory said. "I ran for this office as the taxpayers' best friend, and I see no better way to keep that promise than having criminals finance our efforts to fight crime in Camden County."