The punishment meted out to cocaine kingpin Scott Nichols and his henchmen wasn't limited to loss of liberty: they have also lost cars, cash and real estate.

Last year, Nichols and 23 co-defendants were convicted in a major federal cocaine crackdown. Nichols is serving 15 years in prison and the underlings were sentenced to lesser terms.This week, U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward and Robert Bryant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake office, presented checks of more than $29,000 apiece to Salt Lake Police Chief Michael Chabries and Salt Lake County Sheriff Pete Hayward to finance the battle against drugs.

The money was part of the Nichols gang's loot. Under federal law, property purchased with the profits of drug trafficking is subject to forfeiture.

"This case resulted in the seizure of 26 vehicles, cash and property worth $313,378," Ward said.

Sharing the assets with the city and county illustrates the high level of cooperation among federal and law agencies in the war against drug crime, he said.

"We will not allow criminals to keep the rewards reaped from drug trafficking," he said. "Arresting and jailing drug dealers have not been enough.

"We will seize and forfeit to the government everything they own that we can get our hands on."

Ward vowed to hit drug dealers where it hurts - in their wallets.

"Giving a substantial portion of the illegal profits of the drug trade to local law enforcement agencies helps to ensure that they will have the resources and the incentive they need to continue rigorous enforcement of local drug laws," he said.