Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

October 5, 2012

Centerville Police convert seized car into cop car

By Kyle Ocker - Sports editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — The Centerville Police Department has a new car in service. It's a 1994 Pontiac Trans Am that was seized in a September 2010 drug raid, or as Centerville Police Chief Tom Demry says, "donated" by a local drug dealer.

The car was recently unveiled during Pancake Day after the South Central Iowa Drug Task Force handed the car over to the Centerville Police Department. It will be used for special events and for Officer Allen Buckallew's school program to educate kids on the dangers of using illegal drugs. Demry says it also sends a message to those selling and using illegal drugs in the community.

"That car is going to be a really big educational tool," Demry said. "Not only for what Buckallew does with the kids and things like that but really to other drug dealers. To me that's pretty good education, if we, you know, we're going to take your car and use it to show people why you shouldn't do drugs and sell drugs, especially in our community."

The car was seized after police raided the home of Richard Sleeth in connection with a narcotics investigation two years ago. Demry says it's one of the larger seizures the department has seen. Before seizing any property, police must prove that the property was acquired or provided because of illegal activity.

"We have to be able to prove that drug proceeds paid for those items," Demry said.

The seizure included $174,000 in cash, multiple vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, guns among other items. Demry said in a negotiated settlement Sleeth was able to keep his Exline home in exchange for forfeiting all other seized items, including the 1994 Trans Am.

Costs associated with putting police decals on the car and adding police lights only cost the department $500, Demry said.

Demry said police have started doing more seizures than they have in the past as an attempt to get the attention of those participating in illegal drug activities.

"We've done a lot more seizures lately, than we have in the past, and that's something we're going to continue to do," Demry said Tuesday afternoon. "Because really, that [seizing property] kind of gets to them [drug dealers] more than anything."

The forfeiture proceedings against Sleeth have concluded. However, criminal charges are still pending. Online court records indicate Sleeth is currently facing two felony "D" charges of controlled substance violation and also a felony "D" charge of failure to affix a drug tax stamp.

The Drug Task Force will be holding an auction to auction off the other seized items. Proceeds from the auction will go to benefit the Drug Task Force.