The more than $200,000 that was seized during a bust at a Minneapolis tobacco shop is being held by the federal government, even though all charges have been dropped in the case and the property was ordered to be returned.
In 2012, an undercover narcotics investigation of the tobacco shop resulted in the seizing of more than 80 pounds of synthetic marijuana and over $200,000 cash between the shop and the store clerk’s home, reported CBS4 WCCO.
The seize occurred because police received various tips about someone selling synthetic marijuana out of the strip mall tobacco shop. An undercover police officer purchased the synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, in cubed form four times from the shop.
K2 or Spice are brand names for XLR11, one of an assortment of noxious products created by chemists in an effort to keep ahead of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), reports the StarTribune.
The store’s clerk, Mokrane Rahim, 30, was arrested and in addition to the money and drugs, the DEA seized a Mercedes-Benz and jewelry.
It was the biggest bust that year in Minneapolis, according to the state auditor.
The problem with the bust is that XLR11 was not clearly listed as an illegal narcotic by the DEA at the time.
Rahim’s defense lawyer argued in court five months after his arrest that the state crime lab had failed to show the substance he was selling was in fact illegal.
Judge Richard Scherer agreed and the charges against Rahim were dropped, and all of his property ordered returned, including the money, as there was “no legal basis to continue to hold such property.”
The government did not agree and moved the money into federal custody while U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger filed a lawsuit against the money. The plan is to have it forfeited under federal law.
“It is possible to have a civil case, a forfeiture action, without a criminal case attached to it,” said Tasha Terry, a spokeswoman for Luger. “As far as the specifics on this case, we are moving forward with this forfeiture.”
In April 2014, 11 months after Rahim was cleared of all charges, the federal civil case was filed and called for “the arrest and seizure of the Defendant Currency" because XLR11 had been named a DEA controlled substance on May 16, 2013. Six months after Rahim’s arrest and two weeks after the charges against him were dropped.
The DEA claims its forfeiture action is allowed because federal law states “analogues of controlled substances as equally illegal.”
The money claimed is seen as being from “proceeds of, or is traceable to proceeds of, the sale of controlled substance analogues, was used or intended to be used to purchase such substances, or both.”
If the federal government succeeds in their case, the money will likely go back to the Minneapolis police through the equitable sharing system.