Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2006
Source: Dispatch, The (NC)
Copyright: 2006, The Lexington Dispatch
Author: Sean Jarem
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Drug Dogs)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)


Davidson County Sheriff's Office deputies found more than $540,000 in
cash hidden in a car traveling south on Interstate 85 Monday.

This is the third-largest cash seizure from a traffic stop in the
county since 2004.

The driver, who was identified only as a New York resident, told
officers he was driving a friend's car and was unaware of the cash and
the hidden compartment, according to a sheriff's office report.

Around 11:45 a.m. deputies with the Interstate Criminal Enforcement
Unit stopped the full-sized Mercury sedan for a routine traffic
violation. While interviewing the driver, officers said they became
suspicious and brought in a K-9 unit to search the car. After further
investigation, deputies found a hidden compartment in the rear area
under the car where the cash was hidden.

A federal agent with Immigration Customs Enforcement was called in to
take over the investigation and seize the money.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said the federal agent questioned
the driver before releasing him. The federal agent also seized the car
in order to track down the original owner.

Employees of LSB TheBank helped officers count the cash, which was in
various denominations. The exact total came to $542,060, Grice said.

Federal law defines forfeiture as the loss of some right or property
as a penalty for some illegal act. The law enables the government to
seize property or money from people it believes to be involved in
drug-related activity.

No drugs were found in the car, but the police dog that alerted
officers to the area where the cash was found is trained only to
detect drugs, Grice said.

So although the federal agent came to take over the investigation and
the cash, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office may get a $406,000
piece of the pie.

A provision in the law known as "equitable sharing" allows local
agencies to keep up to 75 percent of the seized assets.

In 2004, deputies with the ICE Unit stopped a car on I-85 carrying
$1.2 million in cash. In 2005, the unit confiscated more than $893,000
from a vehicle also traveling on I-85.

Monday's seizure brings the total that the county has brought in from
traffic stops this year to more than $1 million.

"It allows us to buy equipment without using taxpayers' money," Grice

Replacing older vehicles, installing newer radios in patrol cars and
installing a new camera system in the jail were all paid for with drug
forfeiture money, Grice said. 
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