Six-figure sums and loose paper trails in DEA's high value seized asset ledgers

Six-figure sums and loose paper trails in DEA’s high value seized asset ledgers

The Boston office cleared $750,000 in 2012 alone

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Edited by JPat Brown

When the DEA makes a drug bust, the contraband is destroyed and the dealer goes to court. But any money or valuable property federal agents can tie to the drugs goes into the vaults of the Department of Justice while its owner goes to court – or often doesn’t – to get it back.

The first stop that money makes is at a DEA division office to await the US Marshals Service, which manages the proceeds of asset seizures.

If the money or property seized is particularly valuable, it is recorded in a High Value Seized or Recovered Monies (HVSRM) ledger.

As part of an ongoing investigation into asset forfeiture, Muckrock recently obtained copies of the HVSRM ledgers for the New York, Los Angeles, New England, Miami, and Houston division offices going back as far as 2011 in some cases.

The ledgers document when the money or property arrives, when it leaves, how much it’s worth, and what case it is connected to, among other tidbits.   Given the amount of money the DEA overseas while it waits for the US Marshals Service to collect it, the HVSRM ledgers are audited every quarter to ensure there are no discrepancies.

In the past, the ledgers have drawn the scrutiny of the DOJ’s Inspector General. In 2007, the IG’s office audited the ledgers of several DEA division offices.

The investigators found that most of the offices failed to document chain of custody properly in the ledgers and that money – usually cash – often sat for over a week in the DEA’s vaults before the Marshals arrived to deposit it in a DOJ account.  

The ledgers can be hard to make out in parts and are filled with abbreviations.  

While we cannot confirm officially, one sources say that   the ROAF used throughout the docs stands for “recovery of authorized   funds” - that is, money that had been marked for use in a sting.

We urge anyone with an interesting insight into the ledgers to contact us at

Read the ledger embedded below, or on the request page.

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