EVANSVILLE – Two years ago when officers of the Vanderburgh County Joint Drug Task Force served a warrant in a marijuana-dealing case, they found more than just the usual contraband.
One of the officers noticed shoes. Dozens of shoes. Officers found 115 pairs of designer shoes, mostly basketball shoes and sneakers, unworn and still in the boxes.
“They were obviously gained from the sale of drugs,” Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams told the Evansville Courier & Press.
Federal and local law enforcement officials gathered at Washington Middle School on Tuesday to announce that the shoes were being donated to the Area PTA Clothing Bank for distribution to Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., students in need.
The shoes, sizes 12 to 14, were determined to have a market value of about $12,000, said U.S. Marshal Kerry Forestal.
About 80 percent of the money seized from such drug operations is returned to local law enforcement agencies, said Joseph Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
But Forestal said it is highly unusual for it to be given directly back to the community. He said the Evansville donation is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
“They are considered personal property, which is usually auctioned,” Forestal said.
The shoes were donated through Operation Goodwill, a federal program designed to build good relations between law enforcement and the community.
“The program is a great thing and will help strengthen community efforts that serve children in need here in Evansville,” Hogsett said.
The clothing bank operates with a representative at each EVSC school who helps in determining children in need and steering them through the application process.
“We’re going to put them back on the feet of kids from the community where the crimes were committed,” Williams said.
The shoes were found in the home of Seth Merrick during a Nov. 22, 2010, drug raid. Merrick was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in trafficking hundreds of pounds of marijuana in the Evansville area, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.