CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) – It’s a pricey police pullover.
A South Carolina man could be out nearly $1 million after being pulled over in Monroe last May. Now, there are questions about whether or not he should get the money back.
Seneca Moore, 40, was pulled over at a Monroe gas station last May because police were “unable to tell if the license plate lights on the truck were working,” according to court records.
A K9 unit was brought in. Cops discovered boxes containing $937,754 in cash in the back of Moore’s truck. The money was vacuum sealed with five-point red stars on the packaging. The symbols, prosecutors say, are symbols of the Nine Trey gang, which is connected to the United Blood Nation, and known for violent crimes and drug trafficking.
No drugs were found. Moore, who plead guilty to trafficking cocaine in 2007 and was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison, was not charged with a crime.
The money was turned over to the FBI. Now, the feds are asking a judge to keep it as a part of a civil forfeiture, arguing Moore’s businesses, including a trucking company, lost money.
“The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that the currency was not derived from a legitimate source,” according to federal court records filed by the US Attorney’s Office of Charlotte.
A spokesperson had no comment.
“Civil forfeiture turns the presumption of innocence on its head,” said Dan Alban, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a national law firm that seeks to abolish civil forfeiture.
“A cardinal rule of American law is that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Alban. “And under civil forfeiture, that’s not true. Someone doesn’t have to be charged with a crime, let alone convicted, for them to lose their property.”
Alban has no connection to this case. The Institute for Justice has called civil forfeitures “one of the gravest abuses of power in the country today” and a violation of due process. Alban says it should be part of a criminal proceeding.
“In a case where an officer finds $1 million in suspected drug money,” said FOX 46 reporter Matt Grant, “Why should the officer return that to the owner?”
“In America, we require that in order to punish someone for a crime that they be convicted of a crime,” said Alban. “And that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
He says he is concerned that, generally, money seized in these cases can be spent unchecked by law enforcement agencies – on any number of items.
A phone number for Moore’s trucking company in Sumter, Kiss Express LLC, was disconnected when Grant tried calling Monday.
It is not clear if Moore has an attorney.