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 |  Al | 

    This kind of thing would be terrible for tourism in Tennessee if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Tennessee.

  2. #2 |  Difster | 

    But isn’t it all for our safety? They need that money to keep running their departments. How else are they going to keep funding puppycide, wrong door raids and SWAT raids on pot users?

  3. #3 |  Reformed Republican | 

    “Then, at the point, he said, ‘Do you mind if I search your vehicle?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t mind.’

    Wrong answer.

  4. #4 |  Brandon | 

    Nashville’s News Channel 5 must be a refreshing change from the typical authority-fellating of most (100% in Denver) local news channels, who are more worried about losing their insider access to the powers-that-be than reporting anything accurately.

  5. #5 |  David | 

    Wrong answer.

    Like there was a right one. The only difference would have been that the officer’s report would include “refused a vehicle search” as a reason why he suspected Miles of running drugs.

  6. #6 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

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

    Some guy from California got shaken down by cops here and started
    a website on the hellhole. I think he got the last laugh.
    http://www.putnampit.com

  7. #7 |  UCrawford | 

    Just goes to show, never consent to a search. Ever. The cops who fish like that for forfeiture do not care if you committed a crime or not.

  8. #8 |  Tom | 

    His first mistake was telling the officer he was carrying 22K in cash. At that point the cop wasn’t going to let him go without taking his money.

  9. #9 |  Deoxy | 

    “The safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account,” he explained.

    The safest place from the police.

    Of course, it’s not safe there from other forms of seizure, not all of which are legitimate, either, so it’s a bit of a gamble either way.

  10. #10 |  Bob | 

    This is my favorite part:

    “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.

    Really? You don’t know why you left out the parts that clearly make you look like a money stealing stooge? I do! It’s because it makes you look like a money stealing stooge.

  11. #11 |  Eric | 

    I know that you should never consent to a search of your vehicle, but what difference did his consent make in this case? The cop didn’t find ANYTHING to justify keeping the money other than the existence of the money itself.

    And honest question – should he or could he have done anything other than answer the cop’s question about the cash? Can you just say “Am I free to go? I don’t wish to answer any questions unless I am charged?” or something?

  12. #12 |  Bad Medicine | 

    I’m amazed he was able to get the money back at all…

  13. #13 |  Bad Medicine | 

    “Are you carrying a large amount of cash?”

    “Why do you ask, officer?”

    “Answer my question, @$#@()-head!”

    “Is it illegal to… DON’T TASE ME, BRO!” bbzzzzzzttttttt….

    (Later, in report)

    “Subject was clearly antisocial-paranoid and obstructed the lawful execution of my responsibilities as an officer of the law. Further, he caused me direct and grievous bodily harm by withholding his money from my department, which keeps me in donuts, so my stomach hurt…”

  14. #14 |  Personanongrata | 

    New Jersey driver George Reby:

    I didn’t do anything wrong.

    Yes, George, you did, you spoke with the police without your attorney present and you let them search your property without probable cause to do so.

    Yes, yes, I know, George was pulled over while traveling in a vehicle and was compeled to present his and his properties “papers” but that is/was the extent of his state mandated interaction with the officer, he did not need to divulge the presence of any money or consent to a search of his person or property.

  15. #15 |  terrence | 

    Cops are PIGS – sociopathic, money grubbing PIGS!

  16. #16 |  DoctorT | 

    Tennessee has expended enormous resources towards catching “drug runners” on Interstate 40. I have driven across Tennessee numerous times in the past six years, and nearly every time I have seen multiple state police SUVs (some with sniffer dogs) profiling the traffic. On my last trip, they had targeted black SUVs: I passed three of them pulled over by the drug warriors (in their own black SUVs Perhaps they’re confiscating them instead of buying them.). Since almost everyone on I-40 drives at least a few mph over the posted speed limit, the drug warriors use speeding to justify most stops.

    The commonest places to see the drug warriors are just east of Memphis (between mile markers 27 and 55) and both east and west of Nashville. Sightings are rare in the eastern third of the state and nonexistant on I-81.

    I agree with Personanongrata above. Did Reby use the Internet only for eBay? Hasn’t he learned that we live in one of the worst police states in the world?

  17. #17 |  perlhaqr | 

    Fuck the war on drugs.

  18. #18 |  CyniCAl | 

    The State is stationary banditry, part 9,846,532,543,854,323,459,606,183.

  19. #19 |  Vic Kelley | 

    Thank you, again, for an article that disturbs the hell out of me. Reading your blog takes a lot out of me. Glad I’m just reading these experiences and not yet – thank God – having to live it.

    Good luck America.

  20. #20 |  albatross | 

    What happens to police staffing when they move more and more of revenue-harvesting traffic stops to red light and speeding cameras? Do the policemen now have to justify their salaries by finding anorher source of revenue?

  21. #21 |  Other Sean | 

    There is a silver lining in this story. The officer claims you can buy an ounce of cocaine for $500 in Nashville, which would really be an incredible bargain.

    COP: “Are you carrying a large amount of cash?”

    ME: “Not by the standards of my home-town coke market, I’m not!”

  22. #22 |  Onlooker | 

    F$%cking thieves!

  23. #23 |  SP | 

    Gang tats on his neck, lying by omission, same name as a registered sex offender (coincidence?). What else is Larry Bates hiding?

  24. #24 |  George | 

    Tennessee! What a place!

  25. #25 |  John Spragge | 

    The only thing worse than paying taxes is a government that funds itself from some source other than your taxes. If the government taxes you, you can cut off the money, and because civil servants won’t work for nothing (a great reason to support unions in the civil service, by the way) they shut down. Not a power to use recklessly or irresponsibly, but a vital check on government nonetheless. But what some authorities tout as a great feature of the asset forfeiture program, that it provides “honest” taxpayers with all the law enforcement they could want, is actually its worst bug. Because when the citizens decide they don’t want quite so much law enforcement, they discover that, like the astronauts in 2001 or the hapless sorcerer’s apprentice, they don’t have an “off” switch.

    Not to mention other minor problems, such as institutionalizing corruption in the judicial system. If you think about it, governments came up with a slick solution for organized crime: they nationalized it. Government lotteries have replace the numbers game. Where gangsters used to buy judicial officials privately, now they negotiate asset forfeitures as part of their plea bargains, and buy the system wholesale. Unfortunately, also, as we have learned to our cost, governments, even governments with disastrous incompetence in most areas, have proven distressingly good at crime.

  26. #26 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Interesting forfeiture related legal development this week in:

    MEHNER v. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (D.N.E. 5-11-2012)

    feds used forfeiture procedures to search* a home. in the end they decided not to seize the home, but used evidence they observed in the home to prosecute criminal violations.

    Haven’t seen that trick before.

    FOOTNOTE:

    * the search was limited. Feds claimed they only photographed papers in plain sight. lol.

  27. #27 |  StrangeOne | 

    Another case of libertarianism happening to people.

    I can guarantee that Reby will never consent to unwarranted searches again nor will he ever give the police more than the bare minimum of information he is required to give.

  28. #28 |  mjjoan | 

    Why would the officer feel justified in even asking if the guy had a large amount of money on him? Because there is drug trafficing going on in the area ? So do they profile old ladies in black caddie too? I sure wouldn’t have admitted it and I would have told the officer he needs a search warrant to search my car. We do have rights folks let’s use them!!! And if you think the officer is doing something that isn’t within the limits of the law you can record what is going on. Use your phone most have video capabilities now days.

  29. #29 |  Cyto | 

    I like the way they de-facto admit that they are simply running an extortion racket. They stop out-of-town cars and actually ask “Are you carrying large amounts of cash?” What kind of question is that for a legitimate traffic stop? That’s the kind of question that a Taliban warlord might ask if his gang stopped your car on some back road in Afghanistan, not the kind of question a peace officer asks when trying to ascertain the licensing and insurance status of a motorist.

    Then again, it also highlights the incompetence of the police. If they really wanted to do things right, they’d monitor autotrader.com and craig’s list for people who are selling big ticket items. Then they could just set up on those folks arriving to look at the item. Much more efficient. Or they could start monitoring banks for large withdrawals…. they just are too limited in their thinking. Come on guys, if you are going to get into the “territory” extortion racket, you really have to step up your game!

  30. #30 |  Doug | 

    You not only do not consent to a search, you answer NO QUESTIONS, talk to them as little as possible, and only show them what is required by law. That being your driver’s license, only if you are driving. Remember, there is no law requiring you to have id, so there can be no law requiring you to show it, other than a license IF driving. The police commonly lie about this and will tell you, “It’s the law, you have to show me.” Even then passengers are not required to show id.

    Two videos that should be required watching on You Tube, they are kind of long but well worth it. The first by a law professor: “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865

    The second by a police officer – they ain’t all bad: “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Officer George Bruch
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6014022229458915912

    These videos need to go viral.

  31. #31 |  NEWS LINKS: LA deputies illegally search photog who took their pictures « David McElroy | 

    […] know. But if you’ve never heard of it, you’ll be outraged even more by this story of Tennessee police confiscating $22,000 from a man pulled over for speeding. The man hadn’t committed any criminal act — and told the officer that he was on his […]

  32. #32 |  CyniCAl | 

    Cyto, your theory presumes that cops know how to read and use computers. And think.

    Maybe it is simpler for them to stop random vehicles.

  33. #33 |  Another Highway Robbery - ALIPAC | 

    […] […]

  34. #34 |  Pi Guy | 

    Then again, it also highlights the incompetence of the police. If they really wanted to do things right… Come on guys, if you are going to get into the “territory” extortion racket, you really have to step up your game!

    I think more than not knowing how to use computers – pretty sure they do know how – policing crimes virtually doesn’t provide the opportunity for yelling, intimidating, and victimizing the “suspect” personally. You have to realize that their goals do not include justice or safety or some sense of social cohesion but, rather, have to do with their ability to go out in the field and be all macho on some poor little person.

    Remember folks: when it comes to We the Little People {[TM], (c), patent pending}, you just don’t want to be caught being Little.

  35. #35 |  Frank | 

    I wonder, how many times has this gone unchecked where the person didn’t get the money back. Personally, I’d be suing the crap out of them.

  36. #36 |  Dick Beery | 

    Same thing happened to me coming into Indianapolis, however I was not carrying cash, but was asked the same question. Was also asked if I was carrying a large amount of marijuana. I have seen learned that the correct answer to the questions is: I choose remain to silent.

  37. #37 |  CyniCAl | 

    Here’s your lovely death penalty:

    http://news.yahoo.com/wrong-man-executed-texas-probe-says-051125159.html

    May someone you care about never get caught in this web.

  38. #38 |  CyniCAl | 

    One might ask how they can tell the difference:

    http://news.yahoo.com/mississippi-highway-murders-killer-posing-cop-123452662–abc-news-topstories.html

  39. #39 |  CyniCAl | 

    The War on Drugs continues apace, or “The Devil made me do it….”:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/05/detective-rape-trial.html

  40. #40 |  Toni | 

    Will not be going to TN anytime soon, especially with money in my pocket….GOOD OLE BOYS down there (rolling eyes)

  41. #41 |  Pinandpuller | 

    Omar, Yo!

  42. #42 |  Charlie O | 

    This is not law enforcement. It ye olde highway robbery. It’s also why I also traveled armed. No one is taking $22K off of me without resistance with force.

  43. #43 |  Dan Danknick | 

    I went ahead and sent that clown two $1 bills: one so he could buy an actual brain and another to get that stupid tattoo scrubbed off his neck. I’ll post any response here.

  44. #44 |  albatross | 

    Frank:

    I wonder how often the cop tosses a little pot or meth into the car after he finds the cash. “Sure, you can sue for the cash back. And then we will charge you with drug possession. What, you claim the policeman planted the drugs in your car. Oh, good luck with that defense!”

  45. #45 |  Steve Miller Band | 

    It’s sickening, but somewhat hilarious that people think that cops are trustworthy. What a joke.

    It’s almost like we live under feudalism. We mere peasants are at the mercy of the ‘royal class.’ These goons with badges will take what they want, when they want, whenever they want. They framed me.

    I’ve been outspoken for 15 years, as many of you have, but it’s impossible to get through to those who will not listen.

  46. #46 |  nigmalg | 

    Everyone,

    Stop consenting to ANYTHING. I know it will look like you’re being a “smart ass” to the cops, but for your own safety and financial wellbeing keep your mouth shut and take your god damn speeding ticket. Don’t answer their questions. Don’t chit-chat with them. Don’t assume you didn’t do anything wrong.

    They wreck people’s lives over and over again. It’s not worth the risk.

    Reby is the perfect example of a typical “Free Country(tm)” American until he realizes it’s not.

  47. #47 |  marie | 

    I wonder, how many times has this gone unchecked where the person didn’t get the money back.

    The answer seems obvious to me: If they had to give the money back most of the time, would they keep doing this? As I understand it, you must prove that your money isn’t drug money in order to get it back. That’s an expensive proposition–you might save money by abandoning it.

  48. #48 |  CyniCAl | 

    And I thought there was no God:

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/henry-kissinger-given-full-tsa-pat-down-airport-145256060.html

    I wonder if they treated him to the colo-rectal exam. One can only hope!

  49. #49 |  Other Sean | 

    Albatross #44,

    That doesn’t happen often, but it happens. More in city departments than suburbs or rural areas. In my town the street kids call it a “free case”, as in “there go Officer Colicchio, he tried to free case my cousin last year.” Which is why it’s such incredibly BAD ADVICE to tell people they should refuse requests for ID, or try to remain silent on a car stop (as suggested in a few posts above and elsewhere).

    A traffic stop is a lousy starting point for revolution. It’s easy for middle class libertarians who stopped driving with weed in their car after they got married, to sit back and tell idealistic young kids how to fight for their rights.

    You know what is good advice for a car stop? “Be as careful as you have ever been in your life, because you are in danger from the moment of police contact. There is no right answer for how you should handle this.”

    Its usually better to play dumb than to assert a right to silence. Its almost always better to refuse consent, but that won’t stop a cop from lying about your consent anyway. Saying clever things like ‘Am I free to go, Officer?’ might work, but only on cops who weren’t too bad to begin with. With the vicious kind you should be worrying about, that line will trigger a contempt-of-cop reaction, which is the most dangerous thing of all.

    I used to like those Know-Your-Rights videos, too, until I learned what can really happen on the street.

    This is a battle for public opinion. It should not be fought by individual people against armed state agents amidst the terrifying privacy and isolation of a traffic stop.

  50. #50 |  CB | 

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

    It’s only surreal if you are still in denial of our police state. Once the reality of the police state is accepted, this conversation no longer seems surreal but, rather, quite real!

    @#17 | perlhaqr
    Yes! The war drugs is an amazing success. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to accomplish. Like the “war on terror,” these “wars” are designed to advance authoritarianism, the police state, and their Fascist beneficiaries in the Military–industrial-congressional complex. The “wars” will never end, because to end would result in an end to the tyranny wielded by its beneficiaries. Please watch the recent Larken Rose video about the “war on drugs” on YouTube.

  51. #51 |  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!

    FIFY

  52. #52 |  John | 

    @49

    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

  53. #53 |  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

  54. #54 |  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.

  55. #55 |  Orwell couldn’t have imagined this – our state of being and believing… | View From The Cheap Seats | 

    […] Cops stealing money in Tennessee […]

  56. #56 |  “He couldn’t prove it was legitimate” - Overlawyered | 

    […] it would look nicer in the police department’s bank account [News Channel 5 Nashville via Radley Balko]. Driver George Reby, a professional insurance adjuster from New Jersey, was then permitted to go […]

  57. #57 |  Must-Read Articles of the Week » The New Atlantean | 

    […] Balko never fails to get my blood pressure up. In Another Highway Robbery he writes about cops in Tennessee robbing an innocent man of $22,000 just because the could. […]

  58. #58 |  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.

  59. #59 |  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?

  60. #60 |  Ariel | 

    Goober,

    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.

  61. #61 |  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.

  62. #62 |  Militant Libertarian » Another Highway Robbery | 

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

  63. #63 |  Friday Cultie Bag | Paul's Thing | 

    […] surprisingly frequent police shootings of family pets, to armed shakedowns on rural roads and the confiscation of travelers’ property and money.  In happier days (so long as you were white, that is) you could teach your children that the […]

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