A lawsuit accusing Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer and 64 other county prosecutors as violating Indiana’s False Claims Act is “reckless,” Meyer said Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Filed in November by Paul Ogden of the Indianapolis law firm Roberts & Bishop, the lawsuit alleges Meyer and other prosecutors have failed to transfer extra assets from forfeitures in drug cases and other criminal acts into the Common School Fund.
“What these cases typically involve are usually drug cases, where the drug task force works an investigation and makes an arrest,” Meyer said. If the investigation suggests that the offender has used drug profits to buy cars, houses or other “luxury assets,” the prosecutor can seize those assets as part of the criminal case, then file a civil lawsuit to claim them.
The forfeiture law allows police to keep funds to cover their expenses; after other costs are deducted, the remaining money goes into the common school fund.
Boone County has made three payments, including one of $16,000, into the fund, Meyer said.
“We’re in compliance with the way in which assets forfeited in civil cases are distributed,” Meyer said. “I think it’s a reckless lawsuit that’s been filed by this attorney.”
Meyer said he has hired a law firm to handle the civil claims, because he believes there could be a conflict of interest if his office pursues both criminal and civil lawsuits against the same person.
The firm handling the civil lawsuits for Boone County is paid on a contingency fee arrangement, Meyer said.
“They recover a fee if they recover damages; if they, they don’t get paid,” he said.
No tax money is used to pay for the private firm, he said.
Meyer expects his office, and others, to be “summarily dismissed” from the Roberts & Bishop action “once the facts are brought forward and the court sees how we operate our programs.”
The Logansport Pharos-Tribune reported on Dec. 3 that the plaintiff hopes to transfer more than $16 million into the common school fund, which can be tapped by school corporations for loans.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller will represent the prosecutors. Zoeller, in a press release, said the Indiana General Assembly should decide whether the civil forfeiture law “is too lax or too vague,” not a judge.
Boone County does not have many drug forfeiture cases, Meyer said. “Frankly, the big ones, that have a lot going on, go federal through the DEA; the rules associated with federal asset seizure are totally different.”