Menifee City Council accepts $1.2 million in coronavirus relief funds

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Menifee City Hall reopens for in-person meeting, while maintaining its virtual capabilities. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The Menifee City Council accepted $1,198,820 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds awarded by California at its regular meeting Wednesday, Aug. 19.

The council also approved an agreement to bring a Homeland Security criminal investigator into the police department to be assigned to the HSI Financial Investigations Group as a task force officer.

The CARES Act Funds will address public health and safety impacts of COVID-19. The funds will replace the city’s recent extra expenditures spent to help offset the negative economic effects on the residents and local businesses due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

It will also replace a recommended $100,000 funding source related to the city’s COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Grant Program from CDBG-CV funds to CARES Act Funds approved by council, June 17.

The council asked the city manager to provide them a report on where the remaining funds will be spent, particularly for computerized information technology systems, supplies and construction services.

The council was introduced to David Prince, Homeland Security agent in charge of the western region and the first highest ranking HSI to visit Menifee, and Robert M. Goetsch, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations. Goetsch sent a letter to Menifee police Chief Pat Walsh and offered the department a task force officer position within the HSI Financial Group in the HSI Riverside office. The task force officer is a part-time position, not to exceed 960 hours per calendar year and would be a specific request for Chris McShane, retired Cypress police officer and Orange County district attorney investigator.

Prince explained what the department’s TFO would be doing specifically. McShane will be responsible for a caseload which involves a variety of financial investigations as well as assisting the five investigators who are assigned to the Inland Commercial Enforcement and Financial Investigations Taskforce.

ICEFIT focuses on intercepting illicit proceeds and drugs through the interdiction of parcels and couriers, then ultimately dismantling criminal enterprises through arrest, prosecution, seizure and the forfeiture of proceeds and real property whenever possible. Menifee Police Department would subsequently benefit from asset sharing of forfeited proceeds through the Treasury Forfeiture program.

In his letter to Walsh, Goetsch said, “Since its inception, ICEFIT has seized and forfeited millions of dollars in U.S. currency and real property as a result of its relationships with parcel shipping companies like UPS and FedEx, freight companies, shipping storefronts and a network of informants.”

McShane would be in the department on a temporary basis as a task force officer and be responsible for a caseload of financial investigations occurring in Menifee and throughout Southern California. He would prepare and execute search warrants, secure evidence, complete written reports and prepare cases for testimony in state and federal courts.

The council asked if he would be investigating the recent upsurge of Social Security fraud incidents being reported by many older adults in the community. Prince said the HSI is aware of the scams, which he said are coming out of India for the most part and that Homeland Security does have offices globally and are working on this case and other telephone frauds and scams being attempted in the Menifee and throughout Southern California.

The council welcomed McShane to the department and requested updates on the investigations underway or solved.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.