Another Highway Robbery

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The conversation between the reporter and the Tennessee cop in this article is just surreal.

For more than a year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has been shining a light on a practice that some call “policing for profit.”

In this latest case, a Monterey police officer took $22,000 off the driver — even though he had committed no crime.

“You live in the United States, you think you have rights — and apparently you don’t,” said George Reby . . .

Reby was driving down Interstate 40, heading west through Putnam County, when he was stopped for speeding.

A Monterey police officer wanted to know if he was carrying any large amounts of cash.

“I said, ‘Around $20,000,'” he recalled. “Then, at the point, he said, ‘Do you mind if I search your vehicle?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t mind.’ I certainly didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong. It was my money.”

That’s when Officer Larry Bates confiscated the cash based on his suspicion that it was drug money.

“Why didn’t you arrest him?” we asked Bates.

“Because he hadn’t committed a criminal law,” the officer answered.

Bates said the amount of money and the way it was packed gave him reason to be suspicious.

“The safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account,” he explained. “He stated he had two. I would put it in a bank account. It draws interest and it’s safer.”

“But it’s not illegal to carry cash,” we noted.

“No, it’s not illegal to carry cash,” Bates said. “Again, it’s what the cash is being used for to facilitate or what it is being utilized for.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But you had no proof that money was being used for drug trafficking, correct? No proof?”

“And he couldn’t prove it was legitimate,” Bates insisted.

I didn’t realize Tennessee’s forfeiture law was quite this absurd:

He said that, while police are required to get a judge to sign off on a seizure within five days, state law says that hearing “shall be ex parte” — meaning only the officer’s side can be heard.

That’s why George Reby was never told that there was a hearing on his case.

“It wouldn’t have mattered because the judge would have said, ‘This says it shall be ex parte. Sit down and shut up. I’m not to hear from you — by statute,” Miles added.

George Reby said that he told Monterey officers that “I had active bids on EBay, that I was trying to buy a vehicle. They just didn’t want to hear it.”

In fact, Reby had proof on his computer.

But the Monterey officer drew up a damning affidavit, citing his own training that “common people do not carry this much U.S. currency.”

“On the street, a thousand-dollar bundle could approximately buy two ounces of cocaine,” Bates told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

“Or the money could have been used to buy a car,” we observed.

“It’s possible,” he admitted.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bates if Reby had told him that he was trying to buy a car?

“He did,” the officer acknowledged.

“But you did not include that in your report,” we noted.

“If it’s not in there, I didn’t put it in there.”

So why did he leave that out?

“I don’t know,” the officer said.

The guy eventually got his money back, but only after four months, and even then only after News Channel 5 started asking questions. He was still required to come back to Tennessee from New Jersey—on his own dime—to claim it. And get this:

He had two clients where police agreed to drop the cases in exchange for a cut of the money — $1,000 in one case, $2,000 in another. In both cases, that was less than what they might have paid in attorney fees.

Miles called that “extortion.”

I’d say he’s right.

Nashville’s New Channel 5 continues to do great work on this topic (and in general, actually). One of their previous reports on forfeiture in Tennessee noted that the vast majority of drug stops on Tennessee interstates were of motorists leaving Nashville, when a drug runner would presumably be flush with cash, than heading into the city, when the car would contain the drugs. Meaning they were willing to let the drugs be sold so they could make a bust that would bring some money back to their respective police agencies.

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63 Responses to “Another Highway Robbery”

  1. #1 |  Pi Guy | 

    The “wars” will never end, because to end would result in an end to the tyranny wielded by its beneficiaries. there’s too much freaking money in it!


  2. #2 |  John | 


    Minus the condescension, this is exactly right. The correct answer for how to handle this kind of stuff? IT DEPENDS. It depends on the suspect, the cop, the location, whether you actually have stuff on you… The “there’s no right answer” (I’d say no one universal right answer, but thats splitting hairs) is exactly the truth. I think “Am I free to go” is a near-universal good question, outside of that most everything is situational

  3. #3 |  Pablo | 

    #52 John–agree 100%, how to handle an encounter with a police depends on so many factors it is impossible to give universal advice (but you are right, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” is almost always applicable). As an attorney I am regularly asked about this, esp in regards to taking a breath test during a DUI stop. My answer is always the same–it depends. Have you been drinking? Are you buzzed? Sloshed? Any previous DUIs? Was there an accident? Injuries? Are you under 21? A CDL holder? etc

  4. #4 |  Cyto | 

    I spoke about this case with a friend of mine from Miami-Dade Police. He confirmed that they are trained to seize any sizable amounts of cash as presumed drug or criminal proceeds. It is up to the victim, er, suspect to prove that he made the money legitimately, so seizing it is the safe bet. He also said that it was a common tactic to offer settlements on seized property – so the government is likely to profit even when it knows that it is in the wrong. Everyone involved seems to tacitly acknowledge that the whole thing is about raising revenue.

    As a tactic it dovetails nicely with the “end money” movement. David Wolman has been making the rounds on lefty talk shows pimping his book “The End Of Money” which calls for ending the use of cash – replacing it with traceable electronic transactions. He (and those interviewing him on sympathetic venues like NPR) touts the advantage of eliminating the use of cash in criminal enterprise, particularly drug trafficking. He also talks about all of the costs associated with minting and transporting money. Odd concerns for nominally privacy-oriented leftist media outlets.

    Then he gets around to the real objective – capturing the taxable transactions that are currently flying under the radar and raising revenue for the government. Ah-ha! I suppose that explains the relative rarity of scary “they’re stealing your stuff!” stories in the media. There are a few every now and then, but you’d think this would be an easy go-to scare story for local TV stations and national news magazine shows that make their living on trumped-up scare stories.

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  8. #8 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “So why did he leave that out?”

    ‘I don’t know,’ the officer said.”

    He left it out because it was EXCULPATORY.

    As others have said, Reby should not have mentioned the money and he should never, ever have consented to a search. That doesn’t excuse the behavior of the mindless thieving goon in question, of course. But the compliance of people like Reby doesn’t help matters either. Refuse searches and say “am I free to go,” people. If people stop cooperating and stop boot-licking then maybe we can cripple this drug war yet.

  9. #9 |  Goober | 

    “He couldn’t prove that it WAS legitimate”

    So now we have to prove to the government that everything we possess, we possess legitimately or they’ll take it from us? What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  10. #10 |  Ariel | 


    You’re missing the point. You aren’t guilty, your money is so only your money is being punished. You were guilty of nothing so you aren’t punished in anyway. But that criminal money (or car or house or whatever else they can grab) is punished by being used to fund the police.

    So it’s all good.

  11. #11 |  David M. Schmidt | 

    We manifestly don’t have a government, we have a criminal cartel that uses the forms and rituals of a government to elicit compliance without the need for (much) violence (yet). The police, the courts, and the entire corrupt system they are a part of are “illegitimate,” and “can’t prove that they [are] legitimate,” to borrow the words of the “officer” in this case. Something to keep in mind during encounters with these cartel enforcers.

    On a more practical note, I wish I knew the magic words for escaping an encounter with a highwayman with your property intact and no extra holes in your corpus. Sadly, I don’t think there are any guarantees any more, if there ever were. Every situation is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

  12. #12 |  Militant Libertarian » Another Highway Robbery | 

    […] Posted: May 20th, 2012 by Militant Libertarian from The Agitator […]

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