Feds to keep $138,121 in cash seized at MSP because it smelled like pot

You don't actually have to have ganja on you to get in pot-related trouble at MSP, it turns out.

You don't actually have to have ganja on you to get in pot-related trouble at MSP, it turns out.

A default judgment filed in Minnesota's U.S. District Court on May 28 by Judge Michael Davis allows the federal government to keep a whole bunch of cash originally seized at MSP Airport merely because it smelled like pot.

But the feds don't keep to keep the $138,121 because it smelled like pot. Instead, the legal rationale hinges on the fact that "Robert L. Casteel and all unknown persons and entities... have failed to file a verified claim to the defendant currency," the judgement in United States of America v. $138,121.00 in U.S. Currency says.

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In other words, since nobody came forward to claim the cash after a notice of forfeiture was posted on in January (the deadline to come forward was in late February), the government gets to keep it.

We touched base MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan in hopes of learning more about the January 2013 incident during which the cash was seized, but he couldn't immediately supply details. However, a Star Tribune blog post notes that the seizure stemmed from a tip federal agents received about a California man (aka, Casteel) with a bunch of alleged drug money hopping a flight from Minneapolis to Arizona.

A drug-sniffing dog led authorities to two pieces of luggage Casteel had checked. No drugs were found, but money inside the bags smelled like sticky icky.

Casteel claimed the money was from his bingo business, but Homeland Security investigators allege it's really the proceeds from distributing high-end marijuana in Minnesota, and later linked the cash to a grow-op in Oakland, California.

According to the Strib, it doesn't appear any criminal charges were ever filed against Casteel in connection with the the grow-op, yet the feds are keeping his cash anyway. You know, finders, keepers.

To read Davis's legalese-laden judgment for yourself, click to page two.


Cash seizure ruling

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]