City police seize, hold $629,555 after stop on I-20

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 3, 2002

[08/27/02]Police confiscated $629,555 in cash from a pickup stopped Monday on Interstate 20, Police Chief Tommy Moffett said, and the department will seek to keep it.

At 5:47 p.m. Patrolman Bo McLeod pulled over a Hobbs, N.M., man, reportedly for erratic driving, Moffett said.

The dog riding with McLeod apparently detected a residual smell of narcotics from the late-model Chevrolet truck driven by Michael Gregory, 57. A search at the scene revealed about $15,000 being carried under the hood, Moffett said, and a complete search followed.

Gregory was being held at police headquarters this morning on the traffic violation, but police expected to charge him with other crimes after the investigation was completed.

Police had the truck moved from I-20 near Indiana Avenue and more than $600,000 more, mostly in $50 and $100 bills, shrink-wrapped and in the gas tank.

“I haven’t seen this before,” said the chief, a veteran of more than 20 years in police work, adding that he had known of money being carried in a completely compartmentalized tank, which this was not.

“My guess is that we caught him on a return trip where he actually delivered dope,” Moffett said.

Although drug and cash hauls off I-20 are legendary, they had become less frequent in recent years. “We’ve done some additional training in the past eight to nine months,” Moffett said. “Our intention is to do a substantial amount of criminal interdiction on Interstate 20.”

The chief said he believed at least a large part the money of the money could remain and be used by the police department. State and federal laws, under certain circumstances, allow money used in any illegal form of commerce to be retained by the seizing agency with statutory shares to other funds.

“Out intent is to file forfeiture procedures to have the money forfeited to the city,” he said.

City strategic planner Paul Rogers said he had not dealt with a situation like this but the amount of money that will remain with the city would depend on several factors.

“Whatever money the city gets out of it will go to the police department’s budget,” Rogers said. That budget is about $7 million per year.