(MCT) — CHICAGO — A Michael Jackson fedora. A football signed by American presidents. A mink cashmere cape.
Those are among the two dozen items designated for forfeiture and expected to go up for auction as part of a deal between federal prosecutors and former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who pleaded guilty Wednesday to orchestrating a scheme to use about $750,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
Other purchases by Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi—who pleaded guilty to tax charges for her involvement in the scheme — could be up for sale as well, since the value of the items that prosecutors have identified isn’t close to the $750,000 judgment the government is seeking.
The Jacksons paid almost $63,000 for the 24 memorabilia and luxury clothing items that will be forfeited. Jackson Jr., according to his plea agreement with prosecutors, is also required to identify other assets, including retirement, investment and trust accounts.
An auction of the 24 items is likely but not a sure thing. Federal officials would not comment on whether any such auction would take place soon or would wait until after Jackson Jr.’s sentencing, scheduled for late June.
An auction of the 24 items is likely but not a sure thing. The government could instead destroy items that are deemed to be of minimal value, according to the plea agreement. Federal officials would not comment on whether any auction of Jackson items would take place soon or would wait until after the former congressman’s sentencing, scheduled for late June.
Also unclear is whether the auction would be online, as was the case in the sale of assets held by Rita Crundwell, the former Dixon comptroller who was convicted of stealing more than $54 million from the small northwestern Illinois town. Online auctions save on overhead costs and might make the items visible to more buyers, said Belkis Sandoval, a Chicago-based senior inspector with the marshals.
Sandoval said that if a traditional auction is held, the agency typically would hold it wherever the items were seized. But that’s another uncertainty: the Jacksons have homes both in Washington and on the South Side, and the government has not disclosed the location of the items.
David B. Smith, a lawyer based in Alexandria, Va. and an expert in forfeiture law, said items sold at forfeiture auctions don’t typically yield as much as they would in a retail setting, but that the Jacksons’ items might have “celebrity value.”
“You never know, maybe somebody will want to buy them because they once belonged to Jesse Jackson Jr.,” Smith said.
Donors to Jackson Jr.’s campaign could potentially lay claim to the items by arguing that the Chicago Democrat had defrauded them, Smith said. It’s also possible that the items and the recovered money will stay with the government.
“If it’s too difficult for the court to sort out, or would take too much time to figure out who are the victims and how much did they lose, then the court can just dispense with the restitution to the victims,” Smith said. “And then the government will just keep the money.”
In addition to compensating victims, proceeds from forfeitures can be used to supplement funding for law enforcement and to support community programs, according to the Marshals Service. In 2012, $1.5 billion from forfeitures was distributed to victims and claimants and $616 million was shared with state and local law enforcement agencies.