Crime & Courts

Feds seek forfeiture of $470K in suspected drug money seized by Kansas Highway Patrol

Prosecutors are asking a federal court in Wichita to let the government keep nearly half a million dollars in suspected drug money seized by the Kansas Highway Patrol.

State troopers seized over $470,000 in cash during three traffic stops on interstates earlier this year, federal attorneys wrote in court documents. The money, which is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, was found after the drivers were pulled over for traffic violations. Prosecutors asked the court to order the money be forfeited.

The largest amount of money was found during a Feb. 28 traffic stop on I-70 in Ellsworth County. Trooper Justin Rohr stopped a rented 2018 Chevy Malibu driven by Tilden Trotter III for a traffic violation, according to court documents.

Nearly $250,000 in cash was found in vacuum-sealed plastic bags and a duffel bag during a search of the car.

Trotter said the cash belonged to him and two other people, but he declined to identify them, troopers said. He said he made the money by selling copies of his music but that he had not claimed it on his taxes or ever put the money in a bank. A police dog indicated that the currency smelled of drugs, and Rohr said the duffel bag smelled like marijuana.

Three days before that stop, Trooper Jerett Ranieri and Lt. Doug Rule found over $55,000 during a traffic stop along I-70 in Wabaunsee County. On Feb. 25, the troopers pulled over a rented 2018 Nissan Murano driven by Kelvin Vang for a traffic violation.

The troopers found the money during a search of the SUV. The vast majority had been hidden within the walls of a cooler, but several thousand had been in the purse of a passenger, Lee Her. Her was previously arrested in November with 284 pounds of marijuana in Logan County, according to the court document.

Vang told troopers the money was proceeds from the sale of 40 pounds of marijuana, according to court documents, and he signed a disclaimer form on the cash. Vang, Her and a child had been traveling from Kansas City, Kansas, to Stockton, California, troopers said.

On March 20, Trooper Chandler Rule pulled over a 2009 Nissan Murano driven by Jonathan Vela on I-35 in Chase County for a traffic violation. Vela said he was driving from Kansas City, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to court documents.

A trained dog alerted to the odor of controlled substances, and a search of the vehicle netted more than $165,000 in cash. It had been wrapped in plastic and hidden inside the rear fender panel on the passenger’s side. Vela declined to answer questions about the money, troopers said.

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