Monday, April 18, 2016


Nicholas Marrocco
Nicholas Marrocco in June 2015. | WLKY-TV

Nicholas Marrocco says he kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in a shoebox, in his clothing and even in a bowl in his home in west suburban Wood Dale.

He says he’d messed up his credit in college and couldn’t get a bank account, so he squirreled away the money he’d earned at a pizza joint.
But Marrocco says he lost his life savings on Dec. 6, 2002, when federal drug agents at Union Station in Chicago seized more than $101,000 from a friend he entrusted with the money in their hunt for a restaurant venture on the West Coast.
Federal authorities say they suspected Marrocco and the friend were in the narcotics business.
More than 13 years later, Marrocco — who insists he and his pal weren’t drug dealers — is still fighting to get his money back. He points out they weren’t charged with a crime, and no drugs were ever recovered.
Marrocco’s attorney, Stephen Komie, and a federal source both say they believe Marrocco’s case is the longest-running asset forfeiture battle in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
“This was a drugless case,” Komie says. “It’s the problem with this country’s forfeiture laws. Nobody can compete with the government. The bottom line is that innocent people get caught up in the system.”
He said most cases involve far less money than Marrocco’s and those people tend to settle with the government, typically getting back only half of what was taken.
Marrocco’s forfeiture saga began in 2002 at Union Station, where his friend Vincent Fallon bought a one-way ticket on Amtrak’s “Empire Builder” train to Seattle.
A member of a DEA task force flagged the ticket. Federal authorities have found that drug dealers often travel one-way.
Agents interviewed Fallon in his sleeper cabin. An agent asked whether he was carrying weapons, drugs or large amounts of currency, and he allegedly said no.
According to the government, Fallon let the agents search his bags, although he denies that.
The agents asked about his locked leather attaché case and Fallon acknowledged the bag contained about $50,000, according to the agents. Fallon accompanied them to an office, where one of them opened the bag with a knife and found 19 bundles of cash totaling $101,120.
Fallon then told them he was going to Seattle to invest in a glass-blowing business, according to the agents.
Fallon, an unemployed waiter, went ahead with his trip. Meanwhile, the agents contacted a Chicago Police officer who brought over a drug-sniffing dog that alerted on the bag, indicating the presence of narcotics.
“They are saying if the dog alerts on anything, it’s a substantial connection to narcotics,” he says. “These guys could walk around with dogs and seize currency everywhere.”

No comments:

Post a Comment