Money

DEA Drug Tales: The Death of William Coyman and His Money

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Everyone knows how it’s supposed to go – the DEA or other policing agency catches the bad guys and seizes their stuff. The news reports about drug interdiction usually list the amount of cash taken in the arrest. It’s the norm for goods and money taken to then go to the agency involved to fund further anti-drug operations.

But what happens when there’s a counterclaim?

In what may turn out to be an important test case, the DEA seized $180,000 with the claim it was drug money and the purported owners are taking them to court to get it back.

This follows the heart attack death of William Coyman. He stepped off a train in NY and died on the platform. A search of the bag he had found $180,000 in cash. If that wasn’t suspicious enough, it turns out Mr. Coyman had previously been incarcerated for drug dealing and, at 75, was a retired union man – a union tied to organized crime.

But what is really at issue is just how the DEA determined it was drug money, since no drugs were found on the dead man. They used a drug dog who was alerted to the cash.

Further investigation found that Mr. Coyman was transporting the money for a production company in Boston. According to a report from MSNBC, the company, 180 Entertainment, is also under suspicion.

They quote Mr. Coyman’s son, speaking about his father, “The people connected to that money are probably not good people. My dad was a great man. But clearly he had a colorful history.”

The question is whether the dog’s testimony is enough to label the money as “illegal drug money” and subject to seizure. There have been no drug arrests, nor has any crime been alleged. And in 2009, CNN reported that 90% of US currency had traces of cocaine on it. How exactly does one tell, without other evidence, that money was used to purchase drugs?

How this plays out in court will be instructive. 180 Entertainment wants their money back. If they survive the assumed investigation into their activities, it will come down to a dog’s nose.