Plan For Drug Cartel Money To Pay For Border Wall Raises Questions

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(CBSDFW.COM) – Sen. Ted Cruz’s plan to use drug cartel money to pay for a border wall could take years to succeed, according to forfeiture experts, and opens the door to using the money for any number of new projects.

Cruz’s “El Chapo Act,” proposed to use as much as $14 billion in assets from the Mexican drug lord, as well as assets seized from other convicted cartel members.

Requiring a conviction first, forfeited assets would have to clear appeals, and then claims from interested third parties before the government could ever utilize them, according to Steve Jumes, an attorney with Varghese Summersett in Fort Worth. He said Mexico would likely have claims, along with an unforeseen number of people who could claim they were victimized by El Chapo’s crimes.

Using the forfeited funds for one particular purpose would also be new.

“The use of forfeited funds or property for a non-law enforcement entity to use, is unprecedented,” he said.

An eye on available cash for projects is nothing new in Washington. This bill, Jumes said, could open the flood gates for requests for the same cash.

“It could be El Chapo today with the border wall,” he said “It could be an education program tomorrow.”

Those potential difficulties exist even if the government has its hands on the assets.

Fort Worth attorney David Sloane pointed out the federal indictment for El Chapo does not list specifically what assets the government is aware of, or has seized. The $14 billion is an uncertain estimate.

It would be one thing if the government knew where the money was. It’s more problematic, he said, if the billions in assets are somewhere else.

Cruz appeared on Fox News Wednesday, acknowledging the government still had work to do to determine where the assets are. However, he promoted the ideals behind the idea.

“This is what’s right, to say the people who are violating the border like crazy, we should use their ill-gotten gains to finally build the wall, and to finally ensure we have the assets to secure our borders,” he said.

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