Filing a claim for $195,000 in alleged drug money not out of the question

Barrington police would get the lion's share of the cash if the government seizes it.

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — While no one has stepped forward to claim the small fortune in alleged drug money found in a wooded lot in Barrington, there’s still time for whoever planted the cash-stuffed suitcases off the Wampanoag Trail.

The two suitcases holding $195,000 were found last October by “youths” who were playing in the woods, according to a civil forfeiture document filed last week by the government.

The money was bundled in a way “consistent with how drug traffickers group money,” according to the filing, which also noted the cash smelled like marijuana.

Federal law includes a number of stipulations for how and when someone can file a claim for anything the government is trying to seize. In this case, the two hauls of cash, found in separate pad-locked suitcases, are named as the defendant, since the owner is nowhere to be found.

A claimant has 35 days after receiving a direct notice, such as a letter about the money from the government. There are no indications that such a notice has been mailed.

The time period changes to 30 days from when the potential forfeiture is publicized in a newspaper, and 60 days after the information about the property is posted on the government’s forfeiture website.

According to federal forfeiture law, while a lawyer is not required for a claim, the claim has to be made under oath and there are penalties for filing false or frivolous claims.

The forfeiture document referring to the $195,000 does name a Barrington resident who lived in a home close to where the money was found, and indicates he served a sentence for a 2012 unlawful cultivation charge.

The filing also states he listed a Scituate address that police in that town alleged had indications of a recently dismantled marijuana grow.

The resident has not been charged in connection with the cash reeking of marijuana in the suitcase. There are no criminal charges connected to the home in Scituate.

Barrington police did go door-to-door in December – about two months after the money was found – and asked the man named in the document and a woman who lived with him if anything had been taken from their property.

“The two repeatedly stated no, that they were not missing anything,” the filing stated.

If a claim is made on the cash, it would start a litigation process, during which the claimant and government would argue about who has the right to the money. At that point, it is possible the government would restate the argument made in its filing last week that there is evidence showing the money was either proceeds from drug trafficking or meant to buy controlled substances.

If a claim is not filed, the government would likely move for a default judgment, by asking a judge to decide. If the government ends up with the cash, it would be split between Barrington police and the federal government, with the police department getting most of it.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.