An erratic driving traffic stop on westbound Interstate 70 Wednesday morning led to the largest cash seizure in the county's history.
Putnam County Sheriff's deputies seized an estimated $500,000 in suspected drug money after they pulled over a two-door Mercedes Benz convertible, Sheriff Mark Frisbie said.
When deputies who were working as part of the Intense Criminal Enforcement program stopped the car, the two men inside said they were driving from Long Island, New York, to Oklahoma. The story seemed suspicious to the investigating deputy and when the deputy's drug-sniffing dog signaled that the car might have drugs, officers asked to the search the vehicle, Frisbie said.
When the men consented, officers brought the car to Steele's Auto in Cloverdale. Upon thorough inspection, deputies found a hidden compartment in the rear of the vehicle with several bundles of money, Frisbie said.
The drug dog signaled to officers that it smelled drugs on the money. This means that the cash had a substantial amount of drug residue and was almost certainly meant to purchase narcotics trafficked through Mexico, the sheriff said. An insubstantial amount of marijuana was found on the men but no weapons or other drugs, he said.
When officers found the stash, the men agreed to sign the car and the money over to authorities, Frisbie said.
Federal law allows police to seize cash that can't be accounted for with a bank statement that is in excess of $10,000, so deputies would have been able to take custody of the money even without the consent of the men.
Since the men had broken no law, deputies released them. They were last seen in Cloverdale.
The money, which has yet to be formally counted by a bank, will go into the Putnam County prosecutor's officer seizure fund, Frisbie said. The prosecutor can use the cash to fund his office and pay for training and equipment for local law enforcement agencies.