Crime & Courts

Feds want to keep $350K in suspected drug money Kansas cops found in I-70 traffic stops

What to do if you’re stopped by police while carrying a concealed weapon

The Wichita Police Department offers advice to residents for what to do if they are stopped while carrying a concealed weapon. NAACP President Larry Burks and God Squad representative Pastor "Buck" DeShazer also appear in the video. (Courtesy of W
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The Wichita Police Department offers advice to residents for what to do if they are stopped while carrying a concealed weapon. NAACP President Larry Burks and God Squad representative Pastor "Buck" DeShazer also appear in the video. (Courtesy of W

Federal prosecutors want the government to keep more than $358,000 in suspected drug money that Kansas cops found in four separate traffic stops on I-70.

The four cases filed in August and September allege Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and a sheriff’s deputy found the money after vehicle stops along the interstate in Ellis, Ellsworth, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties.

The most recent case, filed Wednesday in Wichita’s federal court, seeks civil asset forfeiture of $98,600. Court documents state that Trooper James McCord stopped a rented 2019 Buick Enclave for a traffic violation Aug. 9 in Ellis County. Driver Rodrigo Camacho and passenger Andrew Ruiz said they were traveling from Kansas City to Las Vegas.

A search of the SUV turned up the cash, which was wrapped in rubber bands inside vacuum-sealed plastic packages hidden in a quarter panel. The trooper also found four cellphones. The two men refused to answer further questions after the money was found. A drug dog later indicated the odor of controlled substances coming from the cash.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed three similar cases in August.

One alleges that Trooper Dylan Frantz pulled over a rented 2019 Nissan Sentra on June 23 for a traffic violation in Ellsworth County. Driver Juan Escovedo Jr. and passenger Jane Mones said they were traveling from St. Louis to Henderson, Nevada.

The trooper searched the car and found $79,500 wrapped in rubber bands inside a suitcase and about an ounce of marijuana. Escovedo denied that they owned the money and told troopers that he had found it in bushes near a St. Louis TGI Fridays restaurant. A police dog indicated the money smelled of drugs.

In another case, prosecutors said Trooper Tanner Gleason stopped a rented 2018 Cadillac in Wabaunsee County for a traffic violation on June 19. Driver Kewone Watson-Beasley and passengers Brooke Wright and Darryl Holloway said they were traveling from North Carolina to Colorado.

The trooper smelled marijuana, and a search of the car yielded $81,000 in a backpack and two handguns in the glove compartment. The driver told troopers the money was his and that he doesn’t use banks because “they steal from him.” He said they planned to buy jewelry in Houston. A drug dog indicated the money smelled of controlled substances.

In a separate case investigated by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Brian Rhodd found $99,490 in a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica that he stopped for a traffic violation on May 29. Driver Levar Mitchell and passenger George May said they were traveling from Akron to Tulsa.

During a search, the money was found wrapped in rubber bands inside three vacuum-sealed plastic bags. A dog alerted to the odor of controlled substances coming from the currency. Mitchell said the money belonged to a business partner in Ohio, but refused to provide contact information to officers.

The forfeiture cases come after prosecutors filed four similar cases in June. Prosecutors said state troopers found $55,000 after a Shawnee County traffic stop, more than $55,000 in one in Wabaunsee County and nearly $250,000 in a Ellsworth County stop. All of those were along I-70. Troopers also found more than $165,000 in a stop on I-35 in Chase County.

Combined, the eight cases filed since June total about $884,000 in suspected drug money seized by law enforcement officers on interstate highways in Kansas.

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