Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress late yesterday that would target the U.S. assets and money laundering operations of foreign criminal organizations, including Mexican drug cartels whose reach extends beyond the U.S.-Mexican border.
The bill, titled the Preserving Foreign Criminal Assets for Forfeiture Act of 2010, is being sponsored by Congresswoman Chu and Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX, in the House, and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and John Cornyn, R-TX, in the Senate. It would allow U.S. law enforcement to more easily freeze the illicit proceeds of international criminal organizations in U.S. financial institutions, in the hopes of preserving those assets for future seizure.
The concept for the bill came about after conversations between the Congresswoman and U.S. and Mexican officials following the death of Roberto "Bobby" Salcedo. Salcedo, a school board member and educator from Rep. Chu's district who was killed on New Year's Eve last year during a visit to his wife's hometown in Durango, Mexico.
Many of the officials contacted by the Congresswoman said the best way to combat the drug cartels responsible for the violence in Mexico is to provide law enforcement with better means of interdicting their money laundering operations.
"The United States must do more to fight the dangerous drug cartels that thrive along our southern border. I know all too well how these drug cartels can hurt Americans, both at home and abroad," said Rep. Chu. "That is why I have introduced this legislation that will help law enforcement strike at the heart of these organizations- by seizing their illicit profits."
Laws already exist to help foreign nations seize the property of criminal groups in the U.S. But recent federal court opinions have interpreted those statutes as allowing the U.S. courts to act only once a final decision has been reached in the foreign court proceedings. The Preserving Foreign Criminal Assets for Forfeiture Act would ensure U.S. courts can freeze assets subject to foreign legal proceedings at the beginning of those proceedings. This in turn would allow federal law enforcement to seek a temporary restraining order.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars have been laundered by international criminal organizations because the defendants moved the assets out of the U.S. before the U.S. courts could seize them.
Representative Judy Chu was elected in July 2009 to the U.S. House of Representatives as the Representative of California's 32nd District, which includes East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. She is a member of the House Judiciary, Government Oversight, and Education and Labor Committees.
Congresswoman Chu's career in politics spans 24 years. A lifelong educator, Congresswoman Chu taught community college classes in Los Angeles and East Los Angeles for 20 years. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology and a B.A. in mathematics.