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The business of criminal forfeiture (or what happens to the bling)

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marshals ServiceFederal criminal prosecutions against individuals, including most FCPA cases, often include asset forfeiture counts. Faced with the prospect of being stripped of everything they own, most defendants forget about going to trial and cop a plea instead.

(The Greens -- Gerald and Patricia -- were two FCPA defendants who lost at trial, then lost their house, car, bank accounts, paintings and jewelry.)

The forfeiture business is huge. The value of forfeited assets now managed by the U.S. Marshals Service is $2.4 billion. At last count, that included 23,112 items.

Last year, the Marshals distributed $1.5 billion raised through forfeitures to victims of crime and other claimants, and shared $616 million with other law enforcement agencies.

This summer the Marshals will be auctioning dozens of vehicles -- among them a Cadillac CTS, a Chevrolet Silverado 2500, a Dodge Ram 1500, a Harley Davidson, several Range Rover Sport models, and a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500 Longhorn Truck (4X4, Low Miles).

On sale are thousands of pieces of high-end jewelry, watches, bullion, and art -- including the bling in photo above.

A Pennsylvania liquor license goes under the hammer on June 24.

In April, the Marshals auctioned a spy house in Montclair, N.J. The previous owners, according to the Marshals, 'were part of a Russian spy ring busted by the FBI in 2010. Richard and Cynthia Murphy were the names used by the two Russian spies who lived in the Montclair house.' The spy couple apparently updated the kitchen but left the basement unfinished, according to the blurb on the auction site.

The U.S. Marshals Service sometimes goes international. It has a joint venture ('international legal cooperation') with the attorney general of the Dominican Republic for the sale of dozens of assets there, including houses, condos, apartments, and building lots. Prices range from around $100,000 for small lots to more than $3 million for an 8-unit apartment complex with a separate house.

There are 94 Marshals, one for each federal court district (the Marshals' primary mission is to support the courts). Serving under the bosses are 3,925 Deputy U.S. Marshals and criminal investigators, and 1,583 administrative employees and detention enforcement officers.

When they're not seizing and selling the fruits of felonies, the Marshals chase fugitives, transport federal prisoners, protect judges and court officers, and provide witness security.

The U.S. Marshals' auction site is here.