Criminal Justice

$1M seized in traffic stop is returned to exotic dancer on judge's orders

A federal judge in Nebraska has ordered the government to return more than $1 million in cash seized during a traffic stop to a California woman who testified she earned it as an exotic dancer and claimed the money as income on her tax returns.

Although the government argued that the money, found bundled in dryer sheets and sealed in plastic bags during a consent search of an alleged speeder’s vehicle, was related to illegal narcotics transactions, the feds failed to prove their case, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon ruled last week after a bench trial in Omaha. “There is no nexus between the currency and any illegal activity.”

The judge found more persuasive testimony by Tasha Mishra—who was not in the car when it was stopped by Nebraska state police in March 2012—that she had earned the money legally and given it to the couple in the car so it could be used in a nightclub transaction in New Jersey. Bataillon also rejected an argument by the government that Mishra lacked standing to appeal the forfeiture of her funds because she was not present in the vehicle, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

The driver of the vehicle in which the cash was found was ticketed for after the officer said he was driving 93 mph in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 80.

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