K-9 sniffs out large stash of cash connected to drugs

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SELIGMAN - The following is a release from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office:

On February 25, 2009, at approximately 12:30 P.M., a Yavapai County Sheriff's Office K9 deputy stopped a gold colored 1993 BMW with Texas plates on the west bound I40, west of Seligman. The deputy contacted the driver, a 35-year-old Texas resident, regarding an illegal lane change violation. The driver was unusually nervous as he spoke about the violation and it appeared as though the driver and his small dog were living in the vehicle. The driver indicated he was on his way to California, and due to the deputy's suspicions about possible drug possession, the deputy asked for consent to check the vehicle. The driver agreed to a search.

While checking the trunk area, the deputy located a luggage bag containing numerous bundles of cash wrapped in plastic vacuum sealed bag. The luggage bag was left in place and K9 "Elliot," who is a certified drug detection dog, was deployed to conduct an exterior sniff of the vehicle. After walking around the front of the BMW, "Elliot" suddenly changed directions and walked towards the open trunk where he alerted on the bag. Based on the alert, deputies suspected the currency was involved in illicit drug activities. The driver was detained and the currency was transported to the Sheriff's Office in Prescott. The driver denied knowledge of the currency in the vehicle.

In order to confirm "Elliot's" alert, a blind test was created. An assisting YCSO deputy prepared three new boxes and placed the unopened currency package in one of the boxes. The K9 deputy and " Elliot" were not allowed to see the test preparation. Once the boxes were in place, "Elliot" was permitted an exterior sniff and checked all boxes before aggressively alerting on the box that did in fact, contain the currency package. Deputies collected approximately $80,000 in US Currency.

The driver was interviewed and not arrested. The currency was held pending further investigation as to ownership in light of a probable forfeiture filing with the County Attorney.