Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance spent nearly $250,000 over the past five years from a state asset forfeiture fund on fine dining, first-class airfare, and luxurious hotels, according to public records obtained by The City, a nonprofit news outlet in New York City.
While regular state employees, like the line prosecutors under Vance, are bound by strict travel and expense rules, Vance is under no such regulations, and his office controls more than $600 million in funds seized by New York law enforcement in civil and criminal cases.
During his frequent trips across the country, Vance lived high on the hog, The City reports:
Expense reports show that in the last fiscal year alone, Vance visited Washington nine times, Aspen and London twice, and Paris and Los Angeles once apiece.
While in Paris, he spent four nights at Hôtel d’Aubusson, paying $2,816. The five-star hotel “is housed in a true Parisian mansion dating back to 1634” and boasts “discrete luxury, Louis XV furniture, original Aubusson tapestries and a wonderful wood burning fireplace,” according to a description posted on TripAdvisor.
In London, Vance was booked at the Ned Hotel, paying $994 for a two-night stay. The five-star accommodations are located in a former bank described on the hotel’s website as an “abandoned architectural masterpiece,” with a rooftop pool that overlooks St. Paul’s Cathedral. Vance spent $128 for a meal in the hotel’s restaurant, records show.
Notably, The City reports that Vance’s spending over that period dwarfs that of district attorneys in New York City’s other boroughs. The next highest spender was Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who expensed $18,407 since taking office on Jan. 1, 2016.
Vance defended the spending in statements to The City, saying they were within the rules and involved travel to important policing and counter-terrorism conferences. Vance’s office has also spent $38 million in forfeiture funds to help local prosecutors across the country test rape kits.
But the report highlights one of the chief criticisms of asset forfeiture: The loose rules and lax oversight over how those funds are used.
Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police and prosecutors to seize property—cash, cars, and even houses—suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Much of that money is often funneled back into police department and district attorney offices’ budgets.