The Mountain View Police Department is receiving $450,000 for its part in a 2017 drug bust on a opium operation that was being run out of a San Antonio neighborhood home.
At the time, police officials described it as perhaps the largest takedown of an illegal opium operation in California history. The bust resulted in the arrest of a married couple, identified as Jasvir Singh and Donna Santo, who were later convicted of importing poppies from overseas and processing them into a powder that they were selling out of their house.
When police raided the couple's home in 2017, they found more than 4,000 pounds of opium poppy pods and a large sum of cash. Singh was later convicted for seven felonies including drug possession and child endangerment for allegedly using their two children to help prepare the opium for sale. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Santo was convicted of three felonies, including child endangerment and drug possession. She was sentenced to eight months in jail, and three years of probation.
As the criminal trials proceeded, prosecutors also began a civil asset forfeiture process to seize the couple's property that was part of their criminal enterprise. In that process, law enforcement used the suspects' bank statements to track down their accounts and investments. In total, law enforcement officials took possession of more than $700,000 that was deposited in two bank accounts, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. An additional $30,000 in cash had already been seized during the police raid.
About $38,000 was left in one of Singh's accounts because law enforcement officials reportedly believed it came from legitimate work. The two tons of opium poppies found in the house were later destroyed, according to Mountain View Police officials.
As part of the asset forfeiture process, law enforcement officials also sold Singh's 2014 Mercedes sedan through an auction, and the proceeds were added to the seized funds. The couple was allowed to keep their second vehicle, a Honda Accord, due to a statutory code that allows families with children to retain one car.
At the time of the 2017 raid, Singh and Santo's two children were turned over to Child Protective Services. A spokesman for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office could not provide information on the current status of the children.
In total, about $750,000 was seized from the drug bust and divided between various state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
Under a formula set by state law, 10% of the seized funds was turned over to Santa Clara County District Attorney's office. About 25 percent was set aside for state school safety programs. Nearly all of the remainder, about $452,000, went to the Mountain View Police Department as the lead agency that spearheaded the seizure. The city is required to use about 15 percent of the seized funding for local drug abuse programs, according to state law.
At its Tuesday, Sept. 10 meeting, the Mountain View City Council formally accepted the asset forfeiture funds, through a unanimous vote on the consent agenda.