Prosecutors eye $215K in suspected drug proceeds
ALBANY 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But police soon learned that he had a New York license, and that it had been revoked.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.