Allen County Indiana sheriffs stop jeep for going 7 miles per hour over speed limit. They find $26 thousand in cash, release the driver and passenger without charges, but keep the money.
Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette reports
Going 62 in a 50-mph zone, a Jeep barreled west on a slippery,
snow-covered Airport Expressway on Valentine's Day and blew past an
Allen County sheriff's squad car.
One traffic stop
later, two men inside the Jeep were outside being patted down by
officers. They acted nervous, according to a police report. At one
point they looked as if they wanted to fight; at another they looked as
if they wanted to flee.
In the Jeep's back seat, police found more than $26,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking cap.
officers held the two men for a short time in squad cars, they were
eventually released without charges, save for the driver receiving a
citation for driving with a suspended license.
And the money? The police kept it.
that much cash is not a crime, but police have the right to seize it if
they suspect it has been used or procured through criminal means. Most
of the money seized comes from drug cases and can then be used by
various law enforcement agencies.
And at least one local
agency, the Allen County Prosecutor's Office, has taken a more
aggressive approach in forfeiture cases, with the amount of money in
its state seizure fund growing from more than $53,000 in 2004 to more
than $105,000 in 2008, according to Allen County's Chief Deputy
Prosecutor Michael McAlexander.
"We've gotten a little
more aggressive," said McAlexander, citing better communication with
police in how confiscations work locally. "We've created a better
In the situation with the $26,000, police seized
the money because the driver could not give an adequate reason for
having that much money. First, the driver said it was to buy a car,
according to the police report. Then, he said it came from working at
various jobs. The passenger said he had no clue about the money.
Those factors allowed police to take the money.
it's way, way over and above what a normal person will carry, and if
things don't add up (on how it was acquired), we take the money," said
Lt. Art Barile, head of the sheriff department's vice and narcotics
unit and the Allen County Drug Task Force, a multiagency unit run out
of the sheriff's department.
How often money is
confiscated from people not charged with crimes is hard to determine,
Barile said, but his best guess for his department is that it happens
"maybe 10 percent of the time" his department performs a seizure.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said her office seldom sees forfeitures without criminal charges attached.
Trgovich, assistant U.S. attorney at the local federal court, said it's
not necessarily a rare practice for his office but it does happen,
sometimes with more drawn-out cases.
"We had a case a
few years ago where members of this conspiracy, over the course of two
years, were stopped several times," he said. "Each time they were
stopped, they had large amounts of money."
processes may differ with each case and whether it's handled by federal
or state prosecutors, people who typically have money seized must file
a claim if they want it back. They have to show how they got the money
and that it was procured legally. Many don't even file a claim,
according to Trgovich.
"If you find money in a vehicle,
and that's all you find, many times (the people) in the vehicle don't
want to admit it's theirs," Trgovich said.
is seized by a law enforcement agency, prosecutors in either state or
federal court take over a process that determines where the money ends
up. Typically, federal prosecutors handle large amounts of money, such
as the $26,000 case, which Barile said has been forwarded to federal
authorities. Local prosecutors take the cases with smaller amounts of
cash, from $1,000 to $4,000, according to Richards.
on the subtleties of the case and what court is involved, the money
usually ends up divided among prosecutors and the police agency or
agencies responsible for seizing the money. The process can be long and
"It's a complicated nightmare,
actually," said Auburn Police Chief Martin McCoy, who sometimes is a
spokesman for the IMAGE Drug Task Force, made up of officers from
Noble, LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties.
In a state
seizure case, the arresting agency must show how much money it used in
the investigation that led to the seizure. Prosecutors, too, have to
show how much money went into the litigation for the seizures.
supposed to take your law enforcement expenses out of (the seized
money), which could be anything from the attorney's time to write a
search warrant, the cost of doing the forfeiture, the court costs, or
(drug) buy money for the police department," Richards said.
some cases, that money gets funneled back into the respective agencies
involved with the seizures, according to Richards, McCoy and Barile.
money left over after expenses goes to the state's Common School Fund,
which was established in 1851 and has historically been used to provide
low-interest loans for school-building projects.
example, if police seize $5,000 and the department and prosecutor show
the investigation and litigation into the case cost $2,000, the two
agencies will probably split $2,000 of the money. The remaining $3,000
goes to the Common School Fund.
A federal seizure
typically goes quicker, McCoy said, and the Common School Fund is not
in play. A police agency can receive up to 75 percent of the money it
seizes, according to Barile and McCoy, while prosecutors at the federal
level keep the rest.
According to McCoy, his department
does not seize a lot of money, and maybe has one case a year that
results in the confiscation of more than $5,000. When the Auburn Police
Department seizes money, whatever is recouped usually goes into a
general fund for the city of Auburn, and the police department does not
see that money again.
If the IMAGE Task Force takes the
money, it usually gets that cash back. But, he said, it's not like
seizures are in abundance in his jurisdiction.
"We're not getting rich on seizures, by any means," he said.
Thanks to the Agitator