Feds file claim on small fortune in alleged drug money found by kids in woods

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed paperwork Wednesday morning to claim nearly $200,000 in cash that was discovered in a Barrington wooded area by kids who were playing there, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

The documents were filed after nobody claimed the $195,000 within the legally allowed 60-day period since the government posted its notice of forfeiture.

Virginia-based attorney David B. Smith said his client, who is named in multiple court documents connected to the case, decided against filing a claim.

As first reported by Target 12, the government’s complaint from May stated “youths who were playing in the woods” found one of the cash-stuffed suitcases that contained $110,000 last October, and led Barrington police to the second suitcase that contained $85,000 more. Both were padlocked, and the second one was discovered “wedged into a tree.”

“The police noted a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the currency,” the court document stated.

The document filed by a Drug Enforcement Administration Agent detailed the alleged marijuana growing history of a resident who lived in a home adjacent to the wooded area.

The filing said police determined a 42-year-old man who lived there was on probation for illegally growing marijuana in Foster, where he was arrested in June of 2012.

He also had a criminal record in Connecticut, including several convictions for violating the controlled substance act, and weapons violations, the filing stated.

A suspected illegal grow-house was discovered in Scituate.

The document said investigators discovered the man had listed a Scituate home as his address, and that town’s police later discovered the “residence in Scituate had [indications] of an indoor marijuana grow.”

The clues included a monthly electric bill of $1,374, and empty fertilizer bags and plastic seedling containers that were found in the trash at the Central Pike home, investigators said.

The 42-year old and the woman who lived with him in the Barrington home were notified earlier, as required by law. They will be informed by mail about the government’s latest motion, the Wednesday filing said.

Smith is named as their attorney in the document. Smith’s website states his office is “considered the premier forfeiture firm in the country.”

Smith would not say whether or not the money belongs to his client but did indicate the decision to file a claim with the court was in play at one point.

“He thought about filing a claim but decided against it,” Smith said. “He does not want anything more to do with this matter.”

Neither the 42-year old nor the woman have been charged in connection with the reeking cash, or the possible marijuana grow in Scituate. They have not returned a request for comment from Target 12.

A spokesman for the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office said a judge will rule on the government’s “request for entry of default.” If granted, the cash would become part of the federal equitable sharing program that allows it to be split between Barrington Police and federal authorities. The local police department receives about 80 percent of the forfeiture, with relatively strict rules on how it can be spent.

There is no immediate time frame for how long the next step in the process will take.

Target 12 will have more details on this tonight on Eyewitness News. 

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