By George W. Davis
Special to the Beacon Journal
CANTON: When Alliance businessman Paul Monea tried to sell a 43-carat diamond in late 2006, he had no way of knowing that years later he would be benefiting area law enforcement agencies financially.
Known as the “Golden Eye” diamond, the U.S. Marshal’s Office seized the gem from Monea and auctioned it in 2011 for more than $2.8 million, with $1.2 million already wired to several area police departments and other law enforcement agencies that assisted federal authorities in investigating what Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for Ohio’s northern district, described as a money-laundering scheme.
At a news conference Wednesday in Canton City Council chambers, Dettelbach said Canton police have received $749,525, the largest share of the distribution, while Alliance police got $283,429.
Others receiving money from the Monea case were: Stark County Sheriff’s Office, $37,092; Internal Revenue Service and Shaker Heights police, $36,643 each; the Ohio National Counterdrug Task Force, $19,496; Jackson Township police, $12,289; Massillon police, $8,990; and Perry Township police, $3,855.
Dettelbach called the allocations a “double whammy” on criminals because law enforcement is hitting them in the pocketbook and also is pouring money from the seized contraband back into agencies to continue to fight crime.
The U.S. government seized the Golden Eye diamond in late 2006 during an undercover federal sting that led to criminal convictions against Monea and another former Stark County businessman, Michael “Mickey” Miller.
The diamond was being used in a private sale to launder drug money, authorities said.
Its actual value had been widely speculated. Some have said the diamond is worth as much as $20 million. It measures about 1 inch long and three-quarters of an inch wide.
Monea, now 66, was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He is serving his sentence in the minimum-security Elkton federal facility in central Columbiana County.
Miller, a former car dealer, was sentenced in late 2007 to four years and nine months in federal prison. He was released in spring 2009 following his cooperation with authorities.
Canton police Chief Bruce Lawver expressed his gratitude for the cash, saying the funds would be used for technology, equipment and training within the department. He and other speakers said they will continue to participate in such task force collaborations.
“It’s great to be sheriff for only five months and get a check for $37,000,” Stark Sheriff George Maier said. “We’ll take more if you have it.”
Dettelbach made a point to say that the money was “not a windfall but a reward for what they do ... a job well done.”
He explained that this month more than $3.6 million has been distributed, or is in the process of being meted out, through the Justice Department’s equitable sharing program.
Federal law, he said, allows assets seized in crimes and criminal investigations to be given back to departments that helped work the case. Federal agencies take the first 20 percent, he said.
The money was given out as a result of three big cases:
• The Monea case.
• A major distribution ring that brought heroin into Northeast Ohio from Nigeria, Mexico and Colombia.
About $1.9 million was sent to the Northeast Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force for distribution to partners, including Cleveland, Euclid, RTA, Shaker Heights, and Cleveland Heights, CMHA, Cuyahoga sheriff, University Heights and others.
Cars also are being given to Parma, Cleveland and University Heights.
• Forfeiture of $677,660 during a traffic stop in Twinsburg in which Twinsburg police received $432,000 and Summit County Prosecutor Sherry Bevan Walsh’s office received $54,800 from the large drug bust.
“In all three cases, diligent police work resulted in big wins for law enforcement,” Dettelbach said.
George W. Davis can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.