Prosecutors eye $215K in suspected drug proceeds

Monday, January 7, 2013
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— A speeding ticket might cost one man a lot more than the standard fine — $115,000 more.

Federal prosecutors filed paperwork in U.S. District Court on Dec. 31 seeking to seize the $115,000 as suspected drug proceeds. They’re also looking to seize $99,800 seized at an Albany apartment as police looked into the case further.

Authorities said officers found the $115,000 in the car of Oral Richard Prince, age and address unavailable, after a traffic stop in Colonie the morning of July 13, according to the federal filing.

Prince was clocked by police going 56 mph in a 40 mph zone on Albany-Shaker Road just before 10 a.m. Prince told the officer he was going to the airport to pick someone up. He gave the officer a Jamaican ID.

But police soon learned that he had a New York license, and that it had been revoked. Also, the car he was driving was rented, and Prince wasn’t on the rental agreement.

Prince was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and speeding, and the car was taken to be turned over to the rental company.

As police inventoried the items in the car, they spotted a cardboard box in the trunk. Inside was bundled cash that had a strong smell of marijuana, according to the filing.

When asked, Prince denied knowing about the money, saying it wasn’t his.

Soon after, the person who rented the car, identified as Veronica Bennett, then of Limerick Avenue, Albany, showed up. She also denied knowing about the money, saying it wasn’t hers.

After getting a search warrant for the car, officers used a state police drug dog to search the vehicle. The dog alerted to several spots in the car, but no drugs were found.

The cash box was then put in a row of boxes hidden from the dog. When the dog sniffed, it pointed out the box full of cash.

Interviewed at the station, Bennett told police she rented the car because her vehicle needed repairs and that Prince visited her on weekends. She then gave officers permission to search her residence, according to the filing. There, investigators found a shoe box in a closet. That shoe box contained the $99,800, according to the filing.

Bennett then signed a statement saying none of the cash belonged to her and that she had no claim to the money.

Despite their alleged denials to owning the money or knowing about it, both later filed claims to get it back from the Drug Enforcement Administration through their attorney Fred Rench. Contacted last week, Rench said he had yet to see the federal seizure filing and declined to comment.

Neither Prince nor Bennett faces criminal charges related to the incident. Prince’s original aggravated unlicensed operation and speeding charges concluded last year in Colonie court with a $275 fine, officials said.

The Colonie traffic stop was the first of two incidents in 2012 where Prince was allegedly found with a large sum of cash, according to the filing.

On Dec. 5, police tracked Prince to Arizona after receiving a tip. Arizona police stopped him at the airport, asking him about the bag he was carrying. The bag was his, he was there visiting family, he allegedly told police.

When asked if he was carrying a large amount of cash or drugs, Prince also allegedly responded that he wasn’t. But he also gave permission to search the bag. Inside, according to the filing, was $10,200 in cash. He then said he had placed the money in the bag.

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January 8, 2013
8:43 a.m.
Will1960 says...

"After getting a search warrant for the car, officers used a state police drug dog to search the vehicle. The dog alerted to several spots in the car, but no drugs were found."

Why did the dog give a signal for a false positive that drugs were present? Could it be that these drug-sniffing dogs give such indications whenever there used by police? The use of these dogs is an ingenius ploy to search everybody and every vehicle. And these dogs can't be cross-examined in a court of law. For this reason, the court need to examine the legality, training methods and rate of accuracy of using these dogs. If someone initally refuses a request to search your person or vehicle, a K-9 unit can come on the scene and police have the right to revoke your 4th amendent rights by searching your vehicle without having to obtain a warrant.

It's bad enough that the general public routinely waives their 4th amendent rights due to lack of awareness and feeling intimindated by police. This legal end-around of the constitution is an area the court need to review and set stricter guidelines to prevent police abuse of their power to perform these searches. The forfeiture laws give law enforcement a finacial incentive to do as many searches as possible.

January 8, 2013
10:16 a.m.
wmarincic says...

will1960 I know, you, like the Gazette are anti police but common sense would say that the dog alerted to several spots because in fact there was drugs there that have been removed. Just like if you leave your dirty clothes in a hamper for a while and then remove them, they will leave an odor, why is that so hard to figure out? Wait, don't answer that, I already know.

January 8, 2013
11:40 a.m.
Will1960 says...

It isn't a question of being anti-police. The scent of dogs has proven to be infalliable as illustrated in this article. Wmarcic, what about the constitutional protects against unreasonable search and seizures? There has to be some standards the police have to adhere to and they have been watered down as the politicians have seized on the drug war to appear to be tough-on-crime while shredding the fourth amendment in the process. In the court of law you need more than common sense to convict someone charged with a crime. You need probable cause.

Just because you're willing to forfeit your 4th amendment rights because you have nothing to hide doesn't mean the rest of us do.

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