In July, Nebraska police seized over $1 million dollars in cash from husband and wife during a traffic stop. At the time, officers claimed that the enormous sum of cash present in the car indicated it had been earned in the illegal drug trade.
But this wasn’t the case. The cash was actually given to the couple by exotic dancer Tara Mishra. Mishra says the money is her life savings, and that she gave the couple the money to invest in a New Jersey strip club.
The husband and wife were never charged after being pulled over, but police retained the money seized during the stop. The money is being retained under civil forfeiture laws which allow law enforcement to seize the money and property of people involved in crimes.
Police say they found drug residue on the money. But as U.S. District Judge Joseph Batallion points out, it is believed that almost all money in circulation is tainted with drug residue.
Mishra filed a claim to reclaim her money from the government, but her request was denied. Officials ruled that since Mishra had given money to the couple she no longer had a claim to it.
Since no charges were filed against the couple, Judge Batallion has ordered law enforcement officials to return the money to the woman. Government attorneys are now fighting Batallion’s decision.
Mishra’s attorney, Robert Diamond, is hoping the case will draw attention to the government’s often-questionable forfeiture seizures.
“Hopefully, the 8th circuit will come out with a very strong opinion condemning the overuse and inappropriate use of forfeiture laws in cases when the law doesn’t really apply,” Diamond said. “It’s not the government’s money, it’s her money.”
U.S Attorney John Higgins, on the other hand, responded with a much more brief statement, saying the appeal is intended to “protect the interest of the United States.”