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MAHONING COUNTY Drug money is forfeited



Published: Sat, February 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The man gets to keep about $34,000 of the money, but agreed to give up the rest.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A large cache of drug money seized last month from a Connecticut man on his way to Chicago will be distributed among authorities who arrested and prosecuted him.

Judge Robert Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court signed an order Wednesday authorizing the distribution of $244,771 to the Ohio State Highway Patrol and $61,193 to the Mahoning County prosecutor's office.

The money, seized from Sami J. Chartouni, 29, of Danbury, Conn., will go into the agencies' law enforcement trust funds, court records say.

The law enforcement trust fund is money acquired through forfeitures and is used at the discretion of the prosecutor or law enforcement agency who receives it.

It can be used for things such as matching funds for grants, funding of drug investigations, equipment purchases and other law enforcement purposes, said Linda Kerr, fiscal officer for the county prosecutor's office.

Chartouni, who agreed to the forfeiture and distribution, gets to keep $33,996 that authorities said was not subject to forfeiture.

What happened

Assistant prosecutor Robert Duffrin said the highway patrol stopped Chartouni for speeding Jan. 12 on Interstate 80 in Austintown Township.

During the traffic stop, a trooper searched Chartouni's rental car and found $339,960 cash, bundled and wrapped in gift wrap and packed in duffel bags.

Chartouni told the trooper he was in a hurry to get to Chicago. Authorities discovered he has a criminal record in New York for selling and possessing marijuana.

Believing he was on his way to Chicago to commit another drug offense, authorities seized the money as contraband.

Chartouni also faces misdemeanor drug charges, which are pending in Mahoning County Court, Austintown, Duffrin said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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