Federal watchdogs say the U.S. Marshals Service needs to do a better job of valuing and selling assets tied to fraudsters and organized crime figures.
The Justice Department's inspector general has found poor oversight and problems with record keeping that could be costing taxpayers money.
The Marshals Service has managed investments, homes and jewelry tied to many prominent criminals over the past five years. The prominent felons include Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and organized crime figure James Galante.
But Justice department watchdogs say service hasn't done enough planning and training to handle the important job.
For instance, marshals seized trash companies tied to the mob through Galante, without realizing those businesses had tax problems that made it hard to sell them. And in the case of Madoff, the service didn't publicly announce investments were for sale raising doubts about their approach.
Overall, according to the inspector general, "between 2005 and 2010, the small staff of the [service's] Complex Asset Team disposed of over $136 million in assets, yet it operated in an environment lacking the procedures to guide its actions and decisions pertaining to seized and forfeited assets."
In its report, the inspector general's office makes 20 recommendations about ways the service could do better. They include bolstering "the legal, accounting and valuation knowledge of asset management staff."
According to the Justice Department, the Marshals Service "concurred with the recommendations and has already begun to implement recordkeeping, reporting, and valuation procedural improvements."
Update at 12:25 p.m. ET, Sept. 14. More Comment From The Marshals Service:
The Marshals Service points out that the report focused not on the main bulk of the Asset Forfeiture Fund — which covers checks, jewelry, cars and boats — but a much smaller portion that deals with especially complex assets such as investments and businesses.
Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the Marshals, says the service "has been working aggressively with the Office of the Inspector General over the course of several months."
"We take our asset forfeiture responsibilities seriously and have taken aggressive actions to increase the management and oversight of the complex assets within the Asset Forfeiture Fund," she adds.