SCARBOROUGH — The Police Department just got the keys to a 2005 BMW 645Ci worth up to $34,000, one of many assets seized in an interstate marijuana trafficking bust.
The department has had an officer assigned to a southern Maine drug enforcement task force since 2002, when Cumberland County was declared a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA, by the federal government.
The HIDTA Task Force is a joint effort of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police to combat multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking. Assets seized in drug busts are generally sold, with their proceeds divided among participating agencies.
Scarborough was given the BMW in recognition of its officer’s work on a recent case that led to the arrest and incarceration of five drug traffickers who moved hundreds of pounds of pot into Maine, according to Police Chief Robbie Moulton.
Moulton said he couldn’t publicly identify the officer involved in the bust because of the nature of drug investigations.
“Within the department, people know who it is and recognize him, but it is frustrating,” Moulton said. “I’d like to be in a position to give him some public gratitude, but it’s tough in this situation.”
Federal rules say the department can’t sell the BMW for two years. Storing the car without ever running it could drain the battery and leave several engine components dry and cracked, devaluing the vehicle, Moulton said. Driving it regularly would rack up miles (it has just 14,000), also driving the value down.
So Moulton said the white, two-door luxury coupe will be used in a low-mileage capacity until it can be sold. That could even mean the HIDTA Task Force officer may use it if it would benefit an investigation.
It also will be displayed at community events such as Summerfest, with information about the department’s drug enforcement activities and a warning to would-be drug dealers that any ill-gotten gains might end up owned by the police.
“They sometimes do live large,” Moulton said of traffickers and dealers. “But it doesn’t last. These people get out of prison and have nothing to show for themselves.”
Moulton said most of the drugs found in Cumberland County originate elsewhere and pass through on their way north and Downeast. He said traffickers often set up in local hotels for a few days at a time to distribute their products.
These particular traffickers were bringing marijuana out of New York and New Jersey into Maine, Moulton said. The pot could be traced all the way back to the Southwest border, Moulton said.
The BMW was seized along with $187,000 in cash, 171 pounds of silver, an under-construction house worth $500,000, a house with $35,500 in equity and two other vehicles. The Police Department has received about $22,000 from the sale of these other seized assets and more could come soon, according to Moulton.
“It’s surprising the BMW is in as good of shape as it is,” he said. “Often times people who end up with these vehicles through ill-gotten gains don’t take good care of them.”
While the department will try as hard as it can to retain the value of the vehicle before selling it, income from the sale of seized assets is a side benefit to the department’s participation in fighting drug dealers, Moulton said.
“The real benefit is we’re getting drugs off the street and putting bad people in jail,” he said.