I-95 traffic stop yields $120k

May 22, 2012|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A Maryland Transportation Authority police officer's traffic stop in October netted more than $120,000 in cash for the agency and federal government. 

Last week, federal prosecutors initiated formal forfeiture proceedings to claim the cash, recovered when a corporal pulled over a Hertz rental vehicle travelling southbound on I-95 in Baltimore County in October. 

According to court documents, the vehicle was pulled over for traveling 65 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour construction zone. The officer asked where the two men inside were going. One man said they were coming from a football game and dropping the other off in Jessup; the other said they were coming from a friend's house where they had been playing video games, and one of the men was to be dropped off at his house in Dundalk, records show.

The officer detected the odor of burnt marijuana, and initiated a search of the vehicle, according to court records. In the trunk, he found a black nylon bag - the only item in the trunk - filled with four heat sealed bags with currency totaling $121,940, records show. There were also four cell phones and marijuana flakes inside the vehicle.

Both men stated the bag did not belong to them, and they said they were unemployed. A wage and earnings check showed no legitimate income for either man, and they both had histories of convictions for possession with intent to distribute drugs. 

Under federal forfeiture rules, the lack of explanation for the funds and the reasonable belief that they were proceeds from drug dealing or intended to be used to buy drugs makes the cash subject to forfeiture. According to Ed Marcinko, a spokesman for the Baltimore office of the DEA, the local agency receives the funds with the Department of Justice taking 20 percent for the administrative cost of assisting in the forfeiture.

Meanwhile, if the cash truly didn't belong to the two men in the rental vehicle, someone's out a significant chunk of change. 

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