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It’s a tough job to make sure federal convicts pay their fines, restitution debts and bond forfeitures. But last year the U.S. Attorney’s Financial Litigation Unit in Miami more than doubled the Southern District’s collections of those fines and debts. In fiscal year 2000, the nine-person team reeled in $27.9 million for the national Crime Victims Fund, which finances programs for victims, up from $12.2 million the previous year. It collected on more than 8,000 criminal fine, restitution, bond forfeiture and assessment cases. To tighten the screws on convicts, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Ruf Stein spearheaded a joint program with the U.S. Probation Office, which bills convicts monthly, just like a credit card statement. In recognition of the Miami team’s aggressive and innovative efforts, Attorney General John Ashcroft will present the Crime Victims Fund Award to Stein and her colleagues Thursday in Washington, D.C. Stein and staff were nominated for the award in January by U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis. Stein has served as Assistant U.S. Attorney since 1986 and coordinated the Financial Litigation Unit since 1989. She says she was surprised and delighted when she heard the news last week that she and her unit were among the several award winners around the country. “It blew us all away,” Stein says. “It’s great when all of the long hours you put in diligently receive recognition like this.” Collection has become increasingly difficult as criminals have discovered new and effective ways to hide their money in foreign banks and other overseas locations. In many cases, the money has been spent before investigators can get their hands on it. The unit must balance its collection chores with other duties, such as tracking bankruptcy foreclosures and business contracts, which become the focus of civil judgments. “We have forfeiture laws in place to help us, but this is still a tough, tough job,” Stein said. Stein and her team have received the award twice before, in 1993 and 1999. The unit consists of Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary F. Dooley, supervisory paralegal Karen Thompson, paralegal specialist Ann Woodruff, and financial litigation agents Cathy Joseph, Gerald Thompson, Rolando Leon, Colleen Perez, Sandra Williams and Catrina Bryant. The annual award is given on behalf of the Federal Crime Victims Division of the Office for Victims of Crime in Washington. It recognizes federal employees whose work substantially improves federal criminal debt collection and boosts deposits into the Crime Victims Fund, which finances services for millions of crime victims around the nation. In his nomination letter, Lewis recommended Stein and the Financial Litigation Unit staff for the award because of their “overall commitment and sincere dedication to increasing the awareness, cooperation and communication of the federal agencies and staff involved in financial litigation” and for their promotion of the objectives of the Crime Victims Fund both locally and nationally. Lewis credited the increase in collections largely due to Stein, who has reorganized the unit to increase its productivity. He noted that Stein has forged a close working relationship with the U.S. Probation Office and the Financial Section of the Clerk of the Court. That collaboration has resulted in more training for staff and more discussion of how to tackle the collection problems in each case. Stein also has helped establish shared computer access between the three departments. That has reduced confusion and duplication of efforts, Lewis noted. But perhaps the most important thing to come out of that improved collaboration, according to Lewis, was the establishment of the joint Debtor Statement Program. It requires probation officers to provide detailed financial documentation, including a payment summary, for each of their probationers. That information is checked against Clerk of Court and U.S. Attorney records, and entered into a computerized collection system. The system sends monthly statements to criminal debtors. During fiscal year 2000, the system included about 800 debtors. “This isn’t about one person,” Stein said. “This award represents a lot of hardworking people coming together to do an amazing job.”

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