Feds move to seize $16,399 cash found in Grant Co. traffic stop; man had “quarter-ounce to one ounce of marijuana,” says it was his life savings

Covington, Ky–Tiffany Konwiczka Fleming, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, filed suit in federal court on Friday, October 7, 2022 in the curious case of USA v. $16,399.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY. Fleming wants to seize the cash via federal asset forfeiture, claiming it’s drug proceeds, but the owner says it was his life savings, which he brought to Kentucky “so he could pay his sister’s medical bills, since she had cancer.”

On April 29, 2022, in Grant County, Kentucky, KSP Trooper Caleb Dicken conducted a traffic stop of a grey Chevrolet Monte Carlo, with a Michigan temporary registration tag, operated by Benson. Trooper Dicken made the stop after he observed the vehicle swerve into the left most lane three times.

The operator and sole occupant of the vehicle identified himself as Timothy Aron Benson. Trooper Dicken asked Benson to exit the vehicle and speak with him after observing the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. Benson was very hesitant in exiting the vehicle and immediately lit a cigarette.

While speaking to Benson, Trooper Dicken could smell the odor of marijuana coming from Benson’s person. Benson advised Trooper Dicken he had purchased the grey Chevrolet Monte Carlo three days ago and took the vehicle for a test drive to his sister’s residence in Williamsburg, Kentucky, who has cancer. Trooper Dicken asked Benson if he had smoked marijuana in the vehicle or recently. Benson said he had not smoked marijuana and there was no marijuana in the vehicle.

Trooper Dicken advised Benson he was going to pat him down for weapons before searching the vehicle due to the odor of marijuana. During the pat-down, Trooper Dicken felt a bulge in Benson’s right jacket pocket. Based on his training and experience, Trooper Dicken believed the bulge to be contraband and asked Benson what was in the pocket. Benson removed a bag containing marijuana from his right jacket pocket. He stated that he had forgotten about the quarter-ounce to one ounce of marijuana on him. Benson then pulled an unknown amount of United States currency from his left jacket pocket and stated it was $2,200.00. Trooper Dicken asked Benson if he had been in trouble before and Benson stated he had for marijuana, but it was a long time ago.

A search of the vehicle resulted in location of a Marlboro cigarette pack containing marijuana in the passenger seat and multiple stacks of rubber-banded United States currency in the center console. Trooper Dicken asked Benson how much money was there, and Benson stated 15. Inside the trunk of the vehicle was an unzipped suitcase containing two white trash bags. A green leafy substance, consistent with marijuana residue, was observed inside the trash bags and inside the suitcase.

Trooper Dicken conducted a consensual interview with Benson after advising him of his Miranda rights. Benson stated he traveled from Michigan to Williamsburg, Kentucky, with his life savings—approximately $17,000.00—so he could pay his sister’s medical bills since she had cancer. Benson stated he also planned to purchase a Jeep for $4,400.00. Trooper Dicken asked how he was going to get the Jeep back to Michigan after he purchased it, and Benson stated he would drive back to Michigan and pick up his daughter, who would drive the Jeep back to Michigan.

Benson stated that while visiting his sister, he asked her where he could buy some marijuana and she gave him a name, “DO” in Williamsburg. Benson stated DO was the same person he was going to purchase the Jeep from and that he said he purchased marijuana for $60.00 at DO’s residence. Benson also stated that his sister gave him the suitcase that was in the trunk because he was going on vacation in three months, and when he received the suitcase, it was zipped shut.

Benson stated he had received a $24,000.00 settlement from social security.

When asked again the reason for the trip, Benson stated he came down to Kentucky originally to buy a car and to help his sister work on her house.

The DEA lists the following factors as reasons to believe the cash was drug proceeds:

  • Benson’s denial that he was in possession of marijuana when he had a baggie of marijuana in his pocket;
  • His inconsistent stories regarding the purpose of his trip from Michigan to Kentucky; • Multiple stories as to the reason for carrying a large amount of cash;
  • Presence of suitcase and trash bags containing green leafy material consistent with marijuana;
  • The manner in which the cash was rubber banded together—which is consistent with drug trafficking; and
  • Positive canine alert on the cash.

On or about July 15, 2022, Benson filed a claim in DEA’s administrative forfeiture proceeding to the $16,399.00 seized from him. Was the cash drug proceeds or money for cancer treatment? That’ll be up to a judge to decide.

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