Friday, January 29, 2010

Driving Across Kansas With $1 million In Cash That Smells Like Pot = Illegal Behavior?

From the Hutchinson, Kansas

MINNEOLA - Clark County's undersheriff discovered more than $1 million hidden inside a truck traveling last week on U.S. 54, and now county officials are seeking the forfeiture of the cash.

Undersheriff Daniel Knowles was conducting a traffic stop at milepost 65 on U.S. 54, just west of Minneola, when he found the $1,017,183, according to Clark County Sheriff John Ketron. Knowles had pulled over a pickup pulling a trailer that had failed to signal a lane change.

After Knowles spoke with the male driver, who was traveling alone, the driver "granted consent to a search of his vehicle," Ketron said.

Ketron said he could not speak for Knowles as to why a search was requested, and Knowles was not immediately available for comment. He noted, however, that the undersheriff is trained in "criminal interdiction on the highway," has 15 years of experience detecting criminal activity on highways, and previously worked in Emporia patrolling Interstate 35.

"Normally, something draws officers' attention," Ketron said. "We don't normally just search every car."

The driver of the pickup, who has since been released, claimed he didn't know how the money got into his pickup or who it belonged to, Ketron said. A K-9 brought to the scene "alerted on the vehicle where the money was hidden, because the money had an odor of narcotics on it," he said.

The cash was "in all denominations," from $1 to $100 bills, Ketron said. Nothing else suspicious was found in the pickup.

The driver's name and age have not been released, and Ketron could only confirm the man was not a Kansan. The pickup had out-of-state plates, although, Ketron could not say from what state.

"The vehicle was not from Kansas nor was it headed to a destination in Kansas," he said.

Ketron said he could not release further details about the stop since the case has been turned over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

"There's a pending investigation on where the money came from and where it possibly would have been going," he said. "I don't want to hamper anything the DEA might be working on."

Ketron thinks the $1 million discovery is the largest cash seizure ever in Clark County. Paperwork has already been filed with the Clark County Attorney's Office for the forfeiture of the seized cash.

"Under statute, the money goes through a forfeiture process," he said. "Every party with interest in (the money), including the driver and the owner of the vehicle, will be notified and will have a certain amount of time to file a claim."

If it's proven the money legally belonged to someone, "then they have the opportunity to get their property back," he said.

"Often, nobody claims it," Ketron said, noting it wasn't the first time cash and drugs have been seized in Clark County.

He admitted the sheriff's office annual budget is "nowhere near $1 million." Minus salaries of 10 employees, the sheriff's office annual budget is about $330,000, he said.

Should the $1 million be forfeited, 85 percent will go to the Clark County Sheriff's Office and 15 percent will go to the Clark County Attorney's Office, he said.

And of the sheriff's office portion, "there are statutory requirements as to how the money can be used," Ketron noted.

Forfeited money that's been seized by officers can be spent on drug and crime prevention programs, officer training and technology upgrades, he said.

"It's not just to operate the department," Ketron said

No comments: