|Bal Harbour Police Chief Tom Hunker, left, and Al Capone.|
Bal Harbour Police Chief Tom Hunker has responded to charges by the U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ letter embedded below] that his department mishandled and misused seized drug money.
At a meeting Thursday morning at the Bal Harbour Village Hall, Hunker told residents and the village council, “People say this is all about the money. It’s not about the money to me."
From the Miami Herald's Daniel Chang:
Though some residents expressed surprise that Bal Harbour cops had been jetting around the country, seizing millions from drug dealers while being paid to protect the village, elected leaders voiced support Thursday for their embattled police chief, Thomas Hunker.
During a contentious special meeting of the village council, Hunker staunchly defended his agency, which came under fire this week from the U.S. Justice Department for tapping into seized drug money to pay for first-class flights, luxury car rentals and cash rewards for drug informants hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
“This is my responsibility,’’ Hunker said of the federal probe first reported by the Miami Herald on Sunday. He added, “We have not done anything wrong.’’
While accepting responsibility for the federal investigation, Hunker sounded a defiant note and repeated accusations that the investigation was spurred by envy over his department’s success investigating drug dealers trying to launder money.
“We can do it better,’’ he said, “and when you do it better, people get a little jealous.’’
Bal Harbour police’s forfeiture program has been wildly successful, bringing in $5.1 million of drug money seized from criminals in 2011 — more than any other agency in Florida.
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