Thousands returned to crime victims, county coffers

| Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012

The Westmoreland County Clerk of Courts safety-deposit box at the bank was filled to the rim with cash, so officials this week moved to empty its coffers and return thousands of dollars to crime victims or to the county.

Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline said his office needed to thin out $10,000 that was stored in the box.

"We have this box at the bank with all this money, and there was no room left. This is money seized from drug crimes and entered into evidence. If we didn't get rid of this money, we would have needed another box," Kline said.

The box contained bills and coins collected by police since 1988.

Kline said his office obtained 15 court orders that will allow it to return nearly $6,000 in seized cash to victims or criminal profits that will go to the county.

Officials audited the money, and Kline's staff worked with the district attorney's office to determine what money should be turned over to the county or returned to victims.

Most of the seized money, more than $4,000, will be turned over to the county, including $22 from one case that is more than two decades old.

About $2,000 will be sent to individual crime victims. That money was used as evidence in trials, Kline said.

Counterfeit money seized in criminal investigations will be turned over to the Secret Service to be destroyed.

The Clerk of Courts Office is responsible for collecting and storing all evidence seized in criminal cases. Other evidence, such as weapons, is housed in a large storage room in the courthouse basement.

That area, too, is getting crowded.

"We will open a second room this spring," Kline said.

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