Government posts notice for possible claims on $195K found in woods

Claims for alleged drug money can be filed at the federal courthouse in Providence.

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The government posted a notice of forfeiture, starting the two-month clock for someone to claim $195,000 in alleged drug proceeds found in a wooded area off Wampanoag trail in Barrington.

The message appeared on the forfeiture.gov June 5 notification post, but the file said the first day of publication was Friday.

“Any person claiming a legal interest in the Defendant Property must file a verified claim with the court within 60 days from the first day of publication,” the post stated.

The two suitcases were found October 15, with the first one discovered by youths who were playing in the woods.

There was “a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the currency” in the first suitcase that held $110,000 and was secured with a pair of padlocks, according to a federal court document filed late last month.

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

The second suitcase, which also had two padlocks on it, and 42 bundles of cash totaling $85,000 inside, was found wedged in a tree by police about five feet off the ground in the same wooded area as the first suitcase.

The government’s initial filing indicated the currency was bundled in a way that “is consistent with how drug traffickers group money.”

According to forfeiture.gov, any claim for the money must be filed with the Clerk of the Court at the Federal Building in Kennedy Plaza, with copies also served upon Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Rogers.

District of Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Public Information Officer Jim Martin said federal law includes a number of stipulations for how and when someone can file a claim.

In this case, the two hauls of cash are named as the defendant, since the owner is nowhere to be found.

According to Martin, a claimant would have 35 days after receiving a direct notice, such as a letter about the money from the government.

Martin said the time period is 30 days from when the potential forfeiture is publicized in a newspaper, and 60 days after the information is posted on the government’s forfeiture website, as it was in this case.

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 legal 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.

Martin said 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.

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.

A suspected illegal grow-house was discovered in Scituate.

The forfeiture document filed two weeks ago, did 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 out of Foster.

The filing also states that his probation paperwork included 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 suitcases. Scituate police said 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 was with him if anything had been taken from their property.

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

The individuals have yet to respond to a request for comment from Target 12.

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