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United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency

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Postby mikhayl » Tue Aug 22, 2006 1:43 pm

j_d_mcnugent wrote:the court's argument is that the drug dog did indeed conclusively link the money to a crime.


I read it differently. Because the car was a rental, any drug residue couldn't be definitively tied to Gonzalez. To get around that, the majority opinion summed it up thusly:

Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity.


That is crap.
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Postby j_d_mcnugent » Tue Aug 22, 2006 1:46 pm

mikhayl wrote:
j_d_mcnugent wrote:the court's argument is that the drug dog did indeed conclusively link the money to a crime.


I read it differently. Because the car was a rental, any drug residue couldn't be definitively tied to Gonzalez. To get around that, the majority opinion summed it up thusly:

Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity.


That is crap.



the money was removed from the car and dog alerted his handler that the MONEY was tainted. this was done by placing a small sample of the money in an envelope and hiding it in a room. in addition, a small sample of control money was placed in an envelope in the same room.

drug dogs dont have a 100% accuracy rate. however, the defense apparently did not challenge the accuracy of the dog.
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Postby mikhayl » Tue Aug 22, 2006 1:51 pm

j_d_mcnugent wrote:the
the money was removed from the car and dog alerted his handler that the MONEY was tainted. this was done by placing a small sample of the money in an envelope and hiding it in a room. in addition, a small sample of control money was placed in an envelope in the same room.

drug dogs dont have a 100% accuracy rate. however, the defense apparently did not challenge the accuracy of the dog.


The defense did not need to challenge anything. They had already won their case and this circuit court overturned their victory. To overturn a case, the prosecution is supposed to provide irrefutable evidence of illegal activity.

I don't see how a dog finding trace amounts of drugs on an object that had been sitting in a rental car for however long can trump the sworn testimony of the defendant and his business partners. Further, I don't see how drug dog evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Postby j_d_mcnugent » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:19 pm

mikhayl wrote:I don't see how a dog finding trace amounts of drugs on an object that had been sitting in a rental car for however long can trump the sworn testimony of the defendant and his business partners.


the money wasnt lying around in the car. it was wrapped up and placed in a cooler. thus the drug taint didnt come from the car. it was on the money.

the sworn testimony of his business partners was ambiguous and unconvincing. recall he said he gathered 125k to go to chicago to buy a truck he had never seen from a person he had never met who was the friend of someone he could not remember the name of.

The defense did not need to challenge anything. They had already won their case and this circuit court overturned their victory. To overturn a case, the prosecution is supposed to provide irrefutable evidence of illegal activity.


the appelate court ruled the circuit court erred in its original decision. previous court cases were cited.

The district court’s opinion includes no finding as to the credibility of Gonzolez and the other two claimants. The court did observe that the explanations of the claimants were “plausible and consistent,” but this is different from a finding that the court actually believed the testimony. “Plausible” means “apparently acceptable or trustworthy (sometimes with the implication of mere appearance),” see
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 2238 (5th ed. 2002), and we thus read the district court’s opinion to hold that given a “plausible and consistent” explanation from the claimants on one side of the balance, the government’s countervailing proof was not strong enough to meet its burden of showing a substantial connection by a preponderance of the evidence.

On de novo review, we respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion. We believe that the evidence as a whole demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that there was a substantial connection between the currency and a drug trafficking offense. Possession of a large sum of cash is “strong evidence” of a connection to drug activity, $84,615 in U.S. Currency, 379 F.3d at 501-02, and
Gonzolez was carrying the very large sum of $124,700. The currency was concealed in aluminum foil inside a cooler, and while an innocent traveler might theoretically carry more than $100,000 in cash across country and seek to conceal funds from would-be thieves on the highway, we have adopted the common-sense view that bundling and concealment of large amounts of currency, combined with other suspicious circumstances, supports a connection between money and drug trafficking. $117,920.00 in U.S. Currency, 413 F.3d at 829. The canine alert also supports the connection.

The route and circumstances of Gonzolez’s travel were highly suspicious. Gonzolez had flown on a one-way ticket, which we have previously acknowledged is evidence in favor of forfeiture, see United States v. U.S. Currency in the Amount of $150,660.00, 980 F.2d 1200, 1206 (8th Cir. 1992), and he gave a vague
explanation, attributed to advice from an unidentified third person, about why he elected to return by car. Gonzolez purportedly carried $125,000 in cash with him on his flight, for the purpose of buying a truck that he had never seen, from a third party whom he had never met, with the help of a friend whose name he could not recall at trial. This testimony does not inspire confidence in the innocence of the conduct. When he was stopped by the Nebraska State Patrol, Gonzolez was driving a rental car that was leased in the name of another person who was not present, another circumstance that gives rise to suspicion. Then, when Gonzolez was questioned by officers, he lied about having money in the car and about the names of his friends, thus giving further reason to question the legitimacy of the currency’s presence. See $117,920.00 in U.S. Currency, 413 F.3d at 829. The totality of these circumstances
– the large amount of concealed currency, the strange travel pattern, the inability to
identify a key party in the purported innocent transaction, the unusual rental car papers, the canine alert, and the false statements to law enforcement officers – leads most naturally to the inference that Gonzolez was involved in illegal drug activity, and that the currency was substantially connected to it.

While the claimants’ explanation for these circumstances may be “plausible,” we think it is unlikely. We therefore conclude that the government proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant currency was substantially connected to a narcotics offense. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.
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Postby Art Vandelay » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:22 pm

j_d_mcnugent wrote:
mikhayl wrote:
j_d_mcnugent wrote:the court's argument is that the drug dog did indeed conclusively link the money to a crime.


I read it differently. Because the car was a rental, any drug residue couldn't be definitively tied to Gonzalez. To get around that, the majority opinion summed it up thusly:

Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity.


That is crap.



the money was removed from the car and dog alerted his handler that the MONEY was tainted.


I posted a link on page two of this thread that shows quotes taken from cases with similar circumstances in which it was found that trace amounts of drugs on money was not evidence of drug posession by the posessor of the money. It seems like those would set precedent.
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Postby acsguitar » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:39 pm

Guys people use bills commonly to blow cocaine. I can pretty much guarentee lots of dollar bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them.

its a really poor excuse. Besides do you rub your money with cocaine when you make a deal?

Do you keep the cocaine and the money next to each other. For god sakes the cocaine would have to be out side of the bag and freely touching the money.

Its so stupid its laughable
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Postby Art Vandelay » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:49 pm

acsguitar wrote:Guys people use bills commonly to blow cocaine. I can pretty much guarentee lots of dollar bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them.

its a really poor excuse. Besides do you rub your money with cocaine when you make a deal?

Do you keep the cocaine and the money next to each other. For god sakes the cocaine would have to be out side of the bag and freely touching the money.

Its so stupid its laughable


Actually, if a single bill that was used to sniff coke were put into a cash register it would contaminate every bill in the register with trace amounts of the drug, also, when a contaminated bill is put in a ATM machine, it transfers trace amounts of the drug to all of the other bills in the machine. And if a contaminated bill goes through a counting machine at a bank or casino, every bill that follows will be contaminated. The snopes link I put on page two explains this.
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Postby acsguitar » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:58 pm

Art Vandelay wrote:
acsguitar wrote:Guys people use bills commonly to blow cocaine. I can pretty much guarentee lots of dollar bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them.

its a really poor excuse. Besides do you rub your money with cocaine when you make a deal?

Do you keep the cocaine and the money next to each other. For god sakes the cocaine would have to be out side of the bag and freely touching the money.

Its so stupid its laughable


Actually, if a single bill that was used to sniff coke were put into a cash register it would contaminate every bill in the register with trace amounts of the drug, also, when a contaminated bill is put in a ATM machine, it transfers trace amounts of the drug to all of the other bills in the machine. And if a contaminated bill goes through a counting machine at a bank or casino, every bill that follows will be contaminated. The snopes link I put on page two explains this.


Good point. Anyways it still backs up my point that its not uncommon to have cocaine on money.

I guess my point is that the cops seem to believe that cocaine on money means the person stored the money with the cocaine or something stupid like that.
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Postby josebach » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:19 pm

By your rationale, I guess it would never be ok to confiscate money... even if it was an unemployed, repeat drug offender carrying around a million dollars in small bills. I guess you guys would rather that money stay on the street and wind up being responsible for who knows what?

To each his own. Fortuantely, the law is what counts. Think about it. If this was such a big problem and innocent people are constantly having their posessions, homes and money confiscated by the government don't you think the free press would shed a little light on it and everybody would be made aware? Are you suggesting the govt is keeping the press from blowing the lid off this story? Of course not. Why? Because a huge majority of people who are "victimized" by civil asset seizures are guilty. It's pretty much that simple.
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Postby j_d_mcnugent » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:21 pm

Art Vandelay wrote:I posted a link on page two of this thread that shows quotes taken from cases with similar circumstances in which it was found that trace amounts of drugs on money was not evidence of drug posession by the posessor of the money. It seems like those would set precedent.


two points:

1) the court ruled the entirety of the situation--the sum of money, implausible cover story, drug tainted money, etc.--was sufficient, not simply that the money was tainted.

2) the importance of those cases cant really be ascertained without further analysis. for one, they deal with the presumption of cocaine tainted money fooling drug sniffing dogs. See United States v. $30,670 in U.S. Funds, 403 F.3d 48 (2nd Cir. 2005) (scientific evidence establishes that dogs do not alert to the smell of cocaine but only to the smell of methyl benzoate, a volatile by-product; thus, dogs to not alert to innocently tainted currency in general circulation but only to currency that “has
been exposed to large amounts of illicit cocaine within the very recent past”; accordingly, “a properly trained dog’s alert to currency should be entitled to probative weight”; older cases depreciating value of the dog alert are unpersuasive); United States v. $22,474 in U.S. Currency, 246 F.3d 1212 (9th Cir.
2001) (because a properly trained drug dog alerts to the presence of methyl benzoate, a chemical by-product that evaporates quickly when exposed to the air, and does not alert to the cocaine itself, a dog alert means the currency has been in recent proximity to cocaine); United States v. Gaskin, 364 F.3d 438 (2nd Cir. 2004) (in Second Circuit, a dog sniff is probative evidence of the nexus to drug
trafficking as long as it is supported by other evidence).
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