Tampa woman says DEA seized over $40,000 at the airport without cause

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Stacy Jones and her husband like to gamble as a hobby.

Recently the couple traveled to North Carolina to go to the reopening of a casino and met with friends the night before they were to go to the casino.

“We had dinner with friends that night and they had decided they wanted to purchase a car that we had and they paid us in cash,” said Jones.

Before they could start gambling however, they learned a relative passed away so they made immediate plans to fly back to Tampa with $43,000 in a carry on bag.

“I’ve traveled with cash in the past, we are recreational gamblers so it’s just something that we’ve done and never thought twice about,” said Jones.

However, when they made it to the airport, a TSA agent started asking Jones and her husband about the cash.

“So she opened the bag and started pulling out the money and said where did this come from,” said Jones.

They were then questioned by a local sheriff’s deputy and then questioned by DEA agents.

“At that time they said it was just very suspicious and our story wasn’t adding up,” said Jones.

She says a DEA officer even called her friend to ask about the cash purchase of the car, but when the friend didn’t know exactly how many miles were on the odometer, the DEA informed Jones they were seizing the cash because they suspected it was being used for a drug transaction.

Jones and her husband have not been charged with any crime but now have hired attorney Dan Alban and is attempting to get the money back.

“This is based on the law known as civil asset forfeiture. Civil forfeiture allows the government to seize and permanently keep your property, even if you’ve never been charged with a crime,” said Alban.

He has filed a class action lawsuit for Jones and other clients with similar stories.

“DEA has a policy of seizing large amounts of cash at airports regardless if it has any proof if the money is connected to drug trafficking and unfortunately that sweeps up a whole bunch of innocent people who have perfectly legitimate reasons for traveling with cash,” said Alban.

There is no law in the United States that limits how much cash a U.S. citizen can fly with, but Alban believes anyone traveling with more than $5,000 is at risk of having it seized with no evidence and no criminal case being filed.

“We think there is actually a nationwide DEA policy of seizing threshold amounts of cash from people,” said Alban.

A spokesperson for the DEA did not immediately respond to questions about this incident.
Jones says she just wants her cashback.

“I’m finding it’s hard to fight to get it back. It’s a harder fight than I thought,” said Jones.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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