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Money delayed after WTC bombing

By Justin Boron

Almost no one in the county government knew about it until recently. But a $16,000 drug seizure check owed to the county disappeared underneath the pile of rubble that was the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

At the time, the tragic death of about 3,000 people was the preeminent concern. Now, over three years later, a lost check issued in one of the two buildings has become the interest of several people in the county government.

Two months ago, Locator Services, Inc. of Boston came to the county government, offering recovered money owed for a 1992 drug seizure that was part of an international investigation called Polar Cap 5 .

Dozens of agencies were involved in the investigation rooted in New York City, said Vance Donald, the special agent in charge of the Clayton County narcotics unit.

Ranging from local municipal police departments to international agencies, the expansive seizure - which confiscated $3.4 million in property - took almost 10 years to sort out, he said.

Finally, in 2001, the checks were cut in the World Trade Center and would have been mailed if two planes hadn't crashed into the buildings, Donald said.

Locator Services said it would return the money under the stipulation that the county pay 25 percent of the recovered sum.

Since the county had no knowledge of the money in the first place, County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said it might as well take the 25 percent hit.

Why the county knew nothing of the money had to do with the age of the case and the number of jurisdictions involved, said County Attorney Don Comer.

Donald said it was possible that even in 1992, nobody in the county government had known about the money because officials can't find any record of the county's formal request for the money.

"(The request) could have been filled out by a federal agent that just liked us," he said.

County Commissioner Charlie Griswell questioned the lack of oversight at recent commission meeting.

But Donald said a program is currently in place to keep track of drug seizures.

There are several agents who keep track of the requests and often check up on the status of the checks, he said.