Feds and state probe suspended county attorney's handling of funds
A forfeiture account once managed by suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams is being eyed by state and federal investigators probing his office. (JAMES A. KIMBALL/FILE PHOTO)
Thousands of dollars of that money has been doled out to local police departments that aided in investigating the liquor-offense or gambling cases, while also covering expenses at the county attorney's office for staff training, equipment and office supplies, county finance records show.
Bank statements for the forfeiture account — obtained through a Right-to-Know request — show that $25,241.91 in electronic payments was made to an American Express card dating back to 2007.
"As far as we know, it's not a county credit card," Coyle said.
He said the money paid to the credit card reimbursed him for travel expenses incurred while attending conferences held by the National District Attorney's Association.
Last year, the account made $8,170.78 in electronic payments to the American Express card, bank records show.
"The vast majority of the money went right back to police departments," he said.
Fines add up
The Rockingham County Attorney's Office has won convictions against corporations for restaurants, bars or social clubs — largely through plea agreements — on an average of one case per year since 2005, court records show. Judges sitting in Rockingham County Superior Court routinely approved court orders that allowed Reams' office to deposit the money into the asset forfeiture account, court documents show.
New Adventure Entertainment LLC, the corporation for The Page Restaurant, is due in court on Dec. 18, and expected to plead guilty to a liquor-related offense connected to a fatal assault that happened on April 5. Details of a possible plea deal have not been made public.
Interim County Attorney James Boffetti said any fine money generated from The Page case will go the county's general fund, not the asset forfeiture account.
The Rockingham County Attorney Forfeiture Account — which also has a checkbook bearing the same name — is unique in New Hampshire.
They also said the kind of liquor and gambling cases that in part funded Rockingham County's Forfeiture Account are rarely, if ever, pursued in their jurisdiction.
Murray and other county attorneys across the state questioned whether they had the legal authority to collect or spend money from such an account.
Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said his office considered charging a business for over-serving alcohol about two or three years ago, but ultimately declined to move forward with the prosecution.
"I'm not prepared to pass judgment," Hathaway said. "I just know it would be an exceedingly rare set of circumstances that we would have any money come into contact with our office. We are not a revenue center."
"We didn't get any money from that case," she said.
She said if her office won a conviction against a corporation, the fine money would not be handled by her.
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