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Prosecutors move to seize nearly $590,000 they say a Dorchester couple had stuffed in carry-on bags for a flight to California

A Dorchester couple who showed up at Logan Airport last month with $589,041 in cash stuffed inside pants in two carry-on suitcases and two duffel bags could be about to lose the money, under a forfeiture motion filed yesterday by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office.

Prosecutors say a drug-sniffing dog twice detected the odor of narcotics in a bag state troopers filled with all the money - much of it in the form of $20 bills. Plus, the couple gave odd and inconsistent answers during an interview at a State Police barracks, the DA's office alleges, adding that although the couple promised to provide proof of a legitimate reason to stuff several hundred thousand dollars into clothing for a cross-country trip, investigators have yet to hear from the couple, more than a month after they were stopped at a TSA gate and agreed to an interview with state troopers.

The couple were not arrested after the cash discovery - and were told repeatedly they were not under arrest - and were allowed to leave the interview at the barracks to try to catch their flight.

But prosecutors are asking a Suffolk Superior Court judge to let them take control of the money under a state law on seizure of money used for drug transactions. Should the couple ultimately be charged with trying to use the money as part of a drug transaction, the DA's office would get to keep the money permanently.

Universal Hub is not naming the couple because they have yet to be charged with any crime.

According to the DA's motion, the initial TSA search of one roll-on suitcase was at Terminal C around 5:30 a.m. on April 15, even though the couple said they had stand-by tickets on a United flight, which would have left from Terminal B. The husband told troopers they were at Terminal C to try to get on a JetBlue flight in case they didn't get seats on the United flight, and initially told troopers the money was to buy a nail salon, although he could not name it or say exactly how much it would cost, the motion states, adding he also couldn't explain why the couple had immediately gone to Terminal C rather than checking in at United in Terminal B.

When a trooper asked why he had stuffed money in pants, the husband first said the salon sellers had requested to be paid in cash.

"Troopers suggested it would have been safer to wire the money through a bank," but the man had no response, the motion states, adding he then added he tried to hide the money in pairs of pants because he was "afraid of getting robbed" and that "California is a dangerous place."

When asked how much cash he was bringing with him, the man at first said maybe $8,000, but said his wife might have stuffed more money in the pants. Troopers "explained their doubt that there was only $8,000.00 in it, considering every pair of pants was stuffed with U.S. Currency, and have [sic] him another opportunity to be forthcoming about the amount," the motion continued. He then allegedly and reluctantly said, OK, it might be closer to $16,000.

He then told troopers the money was really so he could buy a house in California, and on his phone began calling up photos of what troopers thought were just random houses to support his story. He said he was working with a broker he knew only as Tiffany, from a billboard he had seen on a previous trip to California. According to the motion, a trooper later called the number the man gave and a woman named Tiffany admitted she was a real-estate broker, but denied ever working with somebody from the East Coast.

The man then consented to let troopers search the bag.

Upon doing so, they recovered several pairs of pants all stuffed with U.S. Currency. Troopers noticed the money was dirty and looked like it had not come from a bank. Upon seeing the currency, [the man] said, " Wow, that's a lot of money." When Troopers asked him if he would like to speak further on the matter, he stated he wanted to return to the terminal to attempt to catch his flight, and Troopers ended the interview.

But even at $16,000, that was just one suitcase.

According to the motion, surveillance video showed the two entered the terminal - separately - with two carry-on suitcases and two small duffel bags. Around 9 a.m., after the couple had been allowed to return to the terminal, airport workers found "three unattended bags" at Gate C-26, which they brought to the terminal lost and found and began to inventory - and immediately found large sums of cash, which they began dumping into three garbage bags for storage.

The motion stated that the man initially got through the security checkpoint with a suitcase and a duffel bag without any inspection, but that a white suitcase his wife had was pulled aside for inspection. The man went up to the TSA agent, said the luggage was his and began talking to the agent - as his wife took her duffel back and her husband's luggage to gate C-26.

Troopers put all the money in one bag and brought over their drug-sniffing dog, Nitro, who "alerted to a positive odor for narcotics detection" in the bag. Nitro was allowed to take more sniffs the next day and again signaled the odor of narcotics from the bag, the motion states, adding troopers were able to link the three other bags to the couple both by reviewing surveillance video and because one of the bags had a luggage tag on it with the wife's name.

The motion stated the much of the couple's behaviors - buying standby tickets on one airline, then switching to another, entering the terminal separately, giving evasive answers - when coupled with the reaction of the drug-sniffing dog - were indicative of money being ferried to support a drug transaction and so asks a judge to issue a preliminary order giving the DA's office custody of the money.

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Comments

Yes, I normally would attach it, but it names the two people, which I didn't feel comfortable doing since they haven't actually been charged with anything yet. Should they be charged, I'll post it.

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Voting closed 71

You should be highlighting their names for all to see! Maybe even make like the CIA and use one of those black highlighters to draw attention to the really important stuff.

(One of the best Onion articles for those who missed the reference.)

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Voting closed 16

With lesser amounts, say $10k. People board one way flights to buy a car with cash and drive it back.

The local PDs are called by TSA and just seize the money, don’t charge them and send them on their way.

It takes a lawsuit to get the money back.

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Voting closed 62

This is such a a strange story.

One bag gets detained at security, they then abandon 3 other bags with presumably hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash at a gate because ???

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Voting closed 17

They knew the coppers were onto them and that if they tried getting those bags they'd be arrested?

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Voting closed 29

Troopers put all the money in one bag and brought over their drug-sniffing dog, Nitro, who "alerted to a positive odor for narcotics detection" in the bag.

Even if the dog is reliable, it would be surprising if it didn't detect drugs on everybody's money, considering most currency is contaminated with drugs.

The discovery that cocaine is so prevalent in U.S. banknotes has a legal application that reactions by drug-sniffing dogs is not immediately cause for arrest of persons or confiscation of banknotes. The drug content is generally too low for prosecution but high enough to trigger response to drug-sniffing dogs.

Do not carry large amounts of cash because cops can use forfeiture to steal it. They don't need to prove anything. They can just seize your money and there's nothing you can do about it.

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Voting closed 70

Why is forfeiture allowed? The authorities shouldn't be able to take any of your stuff, especially your money, unless you're convicted in a trial with all the associated rights and protections they teach us about in middle school.

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Voting closed 39

So the public doesn't notice or care when it happens to someone who wasn't (or ever had been) found guilty of anything typically deemed heinous.

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Voting closed 23

These people would disappear and would give back the money to the drug dealers who gave it to them….and when their bodies are found 2 years later or never at all then the money is gone gone…..

Bottom line this wasn’t their stuff. There are cases where low level drug dealers get their cars (that they can proved they owned and paid for) seized because they were smoking weed in them but this isn’t that type of case.

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Voting closed 23

Why is forfeiture allowed?

Civil forfeiture is allowed because Planes, Boats, Cars, and Cash are terrible when it comes to defending themselves in court. In civil forfeiture, a criminal charge or conviction is not needed; the government only needs to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used to facilitate a crime.

Not one seized plane, boat, car, or monetary asset has ever been able to convince the government that they were not used to facilitate a crime.

I know what you're thinking "but they are inanimate objects; How could they possibly defend their usage?" Try explaining that to a government agent like a Police Officer and see what that gets you.

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Voting closed 22

often describe marijuana as "narcotics," even though that's not true.

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Voting closed 31

Even if the dog is reliable, it would be surprising if it didn't detect drugs on everybody's money, considering most currency is contaminated with drugs.

Beat me to it @Angry Dan.

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Voting closed 20

"These people took multiple precautions to avoid having their money stolen, and appeared nervous when stopped by armed men, attempting to downplay the amount of cash they had on them. This is evidence that we were justified in taking all of their money." Civil asset forfeiture is just so blatant.

This story is also a reminder that you can't talk yourself out of trouble with the cops, but you can talk yourself further into it.

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Voting closed 45

Driving across the country would've caused lesser headaches

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Voting closed 30

And with that much cash it shouldn't have been too much of an issues doing cheap hotels/food along the way if needed. It's not that far to drive, and I feel with that much cash it is pretty well known that you are doing to get shit at an airport for anything over $10k, let along half a million.

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Voting closed 32

Las Vegas!

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Voting closed 29

On black …

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Voting closed 26

They were never actually leaving BOS with the money themselves, and were just inside Terminal C to hand it off to somebody else who had already cleared security cleanly and was expecting to rendezvous. Which could explain them ditching the money when things got hot - it might not have been theirs.

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Voting closed 22

If someone has cleared security, how do you get a bag to them without that bag also going through security?

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Voting closed 13

But that means that you'd have to get a car, make sure it was properly licensed and registered, and then obey the law all the way across the country and hope you don't get pulled over because there are police departments across the country which make a lot of money off of civil asset forfeiture like this. (See here for an example, and I know there's a lot more, can't find the links right now.) So you probably want to choose a very inconspicuous vehicle, I'd go with like a Honda Accord or something of the sort, just something that isn't going to set off any alarm bells beyond the out-of-state plates.

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Voting closed 23

If you're a white person in a properly registered Honda Accord, and you put a bike rack on the back (with a bike on it), or camping gear, or stuff like that, and you fill the back seat with travel guides and snack wrappers...yeah, that would be my approach.

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Voting closed 17

Sure, it will take longer, but the risk of having an interaction with law enforcement, or even security, is so much lower that it makes it a much better option if this was related to domestic drug trafficking.

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Voting closed 20

Go, Greyhound!

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Voting closed 20

Do not go Greyhound.

Buses are interstate commerce so they're under various auspices but the feds can get involved, and because of the, uh, clientele of intercity buses (Greyhound especially) there are often times when the cops might show up. With either of these, you have to have someone stay awake to monitor where the bags are (for Greyhound, probably in the hold, for Amtrak, probably above your seat).

But also, uh, Greyhound. Watch Miles's video (and read about it in the Globe) and see if you'd want that kind of stress with four bags of cash.

Also Amtrak falls under federal auspices, uh, maybe? Not because it's Amtrak but because it's interstate. Federal civil forfeiture may be less bad than state.

A not-bad way to do this would be to book a room on Amtrak. This would let you keep your luggage secure, and there is a lot less suspicion for people booking private rooms on Amtrak. Of course for two people that might run you $4,000, although you do get all your means for three days for that price. (If you planned ahead far enough you could probably get the cost down somewhat.)

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Voting closed 11

You can marathon - no need to stop at all!

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Voting closed 7

Around 9 a.m., after the couple had been allowed to return to the terminal, airport workers found "three unattended bags" at Gate C-26, which they brought to the terminal lost and found and began to inventory - and immediately found large sums of cash, which they began dumping into three garbage bags for storage.

Wait...so they were or weren't mules for a drug transaction and may or may not have been buying a nail salon or a house with the money...

But then they just left the money in the terminal?

What in the flying fuck is going on here? They got spooked by the questions and just decided to take one bag of money and dump the rest?? I'd argue nobody doing anything legal would just leave 3 bags of their own money behind.

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Voting closed 47

they were initially stopped at TSA before they made it to the gate.

the additional cash was found at C-26, which means they somehow did make it through TSA undetected with all that other money.

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Voting closed 22

I looked at the motion again and it states the man entered the checkpoint at 4:55 a.m. with one green roller suitcase and one small black duffel bag and the woman entered at 5:06 a.m. with another duffel bag and a white roller suitcase, which the motion says was what TSA pulled aside for inspection.

As the agent was inspecting the bag, the man went up and claimed ownership of the white suitcase and began to speak to the agent. And while he was doing that, his wife "took the remaining three bags to gate C-26 and abandoned them, where they were later recovered by Massport employees."

I'll fix the story, thanks for spotting that.

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Voting closed 25

So much for paraphrasing the old song by the Box Tops. The Letter.

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain't got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home
My baby wants to buy a nail salon

I don't care how much money I gotta spend
Got to get back to my nails done again
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home
My baby, just-a bought a nail salon.

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Voting closed 27

Is that $500,000 in your pants or are you happy to see me?

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Voting closed 27

To want for government to stop them in an airport and take their money for no good reason. Also, I'd love to see cruelty to animals laws written to bar dogs from doing police work.

Of course, having government steal $589K impacts the finite number of people who have that amount of wealth in the first place, so everyone who doesn't, and will never, have that kind of money will gleefully carry water for the cops and the DA in rooting against these people.

Strange the strike zones that the underinformed and undereducated will draw in what rich people can and can't do, and which rich people they think should be allowed to do it, and which shouldn't. Sean Hannity would burst a vein screaming on television if the Cheeto got pinched for this.

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Voting closed 31

Also, I'd love to see cruelty to animals laws written to bar dogs from doing police work.

No way, man. A dog is really, really good at taking down someone fleeing. Vastly better than a human and less prone to shoot them in the back as well while also having zero fear if they pull a weapon (and while I don't want any animals shot, I'd rather a canine cop take a bullet than a human cop in the line of duty).

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Voting closed 22

Dogs are way better than people. It's not close.

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Voting closed 20

So if I see a dog attacking you or your family I just shoot you or your family because I’m sure you did something to the dog. Sounds right…

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Voting closed 23

In the incredibly unlikely event that I need to resolve an altercation between myself and a dog, I deserve to die.

Imagine planning a society around this eventuality that probably rates somewhere between being struck by lightning and me (expletive) Sydney Sweeney. Ridiculous.

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Voting closed 15

As part of my job and never once thought about shooting the human.

It’s not that rare bud.

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Voting closed 17

That I'm not neighbors with foul degenerate rednecks who keep vicious dogs.

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Voting closed 14

Get over yourself. Sheesh.

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Voting closed 10

So you surmise that these are just fabulously wealthy people who amassed their fortune legitimately yet have seemingly abandoned $590,000?
Interesting.

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Voting closed 15

Pot has storefronts now, and the Sacklers got slapped on the wrist.

I am not my government. I am better than my government.

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Voting closed 14

all the money - much of it in the form of $20 bills - some 239,120 of them

If the total is $589,041 and there were 239,120 bills, the average bill would be less than $2.50. So, not a lot of 20s (if it was all 20s, it would only be about 12,000 bills).

Also, apparently bills weigh about a gram each, so about 450 to the pound. This would mean toting around more than 500 pounds of bills, which is a lot to tote through an airport.

Maybe a decimal got dropped somewhere?

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Voting closed 21

The motion claims there were 239,120 $20 bills, but that would equal $4.78 million, which is not right, either. If you had 23,912 of those bills, that would be $478,240, which seems to make more sense, so maybe a 0 got added. I'll delete the specific number in the story.

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Voting closed 22

What if it was 239,120 $2 bills!

That's a LOT of Jeffersons! Then we'd know something suspicious was definitely going on!

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Voting closed 17

Or they're huge Clemson fans.

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Voting closed 18