drug transaction. Rather, the Government must only show that the defendant property was probably derived from illegal drug trafficking activities. United States v. $ 250,000, 808 F.2d at 899-900.
The connection of the defendant property to drug trafficking may be shown by circumstantial evidence and inferences derived from circumstantial evidence and need not be shown by direct proof. United States v. $ 4,255,000, 762 F.2d 895, 903-04 (11th Cir. 1985); United States v. Brock, 241 U.S. App. D.C. 324, 747 F.2d 761, 763 (D.C.Cir. 1984). The Government's showing of probable cause may be made wholly with otherwise inadmissible evidence, such as hearsay, and it may include facts learned after the seizure of the defendant property. United States v. $ 250,000, 808 F.2d at 899; United States v. $ 41,305 in Currency and Traveler's Checks, 802 F.2d 1339, 1343 (11th Cir. 1986). In evaluating the issue of probable cause, the court may consider common experience and the realities of normal life and must base its conclusions on all attendant circumstances. United States v. $ 250,000, 808 F.2d at 899; United States v. $ 4,255,000, 762 F.2d at 904.
We conclude that the Government has made the required showing of probable cause. We note the large amount of money found in Mr. Camacho's car. The fact of an extremely large amount of money by itself constitutes strong evidence that the money was furnished in exchange for illegal drugs. United States v. $ 2,500, 689 F.2d 10, 16 (2d Cir. 1982); United States v. $ 364,960, 661 F.2d at 324. The packaging, denominations and condition of the large amount of money that Mr. Camacho was carrying further support a reasonable belief that the money was connected with drug trafficking. The money found in the car consisted of bills in denominations of $ 20 and smaller. The bills were of varying ages and conditions, and they were bundled together with rubber bands. Currency of such denominations and wrapped in such a way may reasonably be inferred to have come from drug dealing activities. United States v. One 1982 Chevrolet Camaro and $ 32,980, Civil Action No. 85-1045(JFG) (D.N.J. Apr. 22, 1987); United States v. $ 319,820, 620 F. Supp. 1474, 1476 (N.D.Ga. 1985).
The fact that a large amount of money was being transported southward from New York through a well known drug corridor by a Colombian national who resides in Miami further supports the Government's showing of probable cause. The reputation of an area for criminal activity may be relied on to support an inference of criminal conduct. See United States v. Rickus, 737 F.2d 360, 365 (3d Cir. 1984). The area where Mr. Camacho was stopped by Trooper Tomasello, along Route 40 in Salem County, New Jersey, carries such a volume of drug traffic that it is commonly known as "Cocaine Alley." See United States v. $ 33,500, Civil Action No. 86-3348(MHC) (D.N.J. Aug. 17, 1988); United States v. $ 32,310, Civil Action No. 85-4004(MHC) (D.N.J. June 23, 1988). Colombia is a known major source of drugs which eventually get trafficked throughout the United States, and Miami is a known center for drug trafficking and money laundering. United States v. $ 364,960, 661 F.2d at 323-24; United States v $ 5,644,540, 799 F.2d 1357, 1363 (9th Cir 1986). We are entitled to take such common experience considerations into account. United States v. $ 319,820, 620 F. Supp. at 1477.
Other facts support our conclusion that the Government has met its probable cause burden. Mr. Camacho was observed to be nervous by Trooper Tomasello, and he gave varying and conflicting accounts of the origin of the defendant currency to the New Jersey State Police and the Customs Service. Mr. Camacho eventually told the troopers and/or the Customs agents that the defendant currency was the proceeds of drug trafficking, and that his earlier statements about the currency not being related to drugs were untruthful. Coco, the Customs Service narcotics detector dog, alerted quickly to the defendant currency and identified it under controlled conditions to be tainted by narcotics. Alerts and identifications by trained narcotics detector dogs may support a showing of probable cause. United States v. $ 319,820, 620 F. Supp. at 1476; see United States v. Massac, 867 F.2d 174, 176 (3d Cir. 1989). As Dr. Poupko's study did not deal with a scent or odor analysis of currency and could not address directly the validity of narcotics detection by dogs, it was considered but we do not give it much weight under the circumstances of this case.
In light of these factors, we find that the Government has shown probable cause to believe that the defendant currency had been furnished in exchange for illegal drugs or that it constitutes the proceeds of such an exchange. We now turn to the issue whether the claimants have shown, by a preponderance of credible evidence, that the defendant currency was not furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for illegal drugs. See United States v. $ 250,000, 808 F.2d at 897. We find that they have not.
In order to meet their burden of proof, the claimants must show that they lacked knowledge of the fact that the defendant currency was related to drug trafficking. United States v. $ 10,694, 828 F.2d 233, 234-35 (4th Cir. 1987); United States v. $ 4,255,000, 762 F.2d at 907. We find that the claimants have failed to show that they had no knowledge of the relationship between the defendant currency and drugs. We find their claim that the defendant currency was actually part of a scheme to smuggle money into the United States in order to receive a preferable exchange rate to be incredible under the circumstances.
No document or other evidence, other than the testimony of the claimants themselves, supports the contention that the defendant currency was to be used to buy clothing in New York or Europe for resale in Bogota. Mr. Camacho himself admitted to law enforcement officers in February of 1987 that the defendant currency was the proceeds of drug trafficking. At that time, he also stated that his earlier versions concerning the money and its origins were untruthful. There was no evidence, other than the statements of Ms. Echavarria, explaining how the operator of a twenty foot by twenty foot clothing boutique which was started with an initial investment of $ 600 or $ 800 and which was located on the third floor of a house in Bogota, Colombia, could generate approximately $ 100,000 in cash in order to purchase American and European fashions.
The evidence at trial showed that both of the claimants previously had participated in other large cash transactions which the Customs Service had found suspicious and had monitored. The evidence showed that Mr. Camacho used his mother's maiden name in three such transactions. Both of the claimants denied any connection with such prior transactions at their depositions, and they admitted at trial that their deposition testimony in this regard had been untruthful.
The claimants offered no explanation for the condition and packaging of the defendant currency. Other than the testimony that Gordo was Mr. Polmbo's representative, there was no explanation of how or why the delivery of money at the airport had been done by an unknown and suspicious Colombian without any documentation. We note that the lack of a receipt for such a large transaction as the one alleged by the claimants is unusual under normal circumstances. We also note that Mr. Polmbo, Ms. Echavarria's alleged source of the defendant currency, apparently has fled from the law in Colombia according to the claimants' own testimony.
We simply find it incredible to accept the claimants' explanation of the source of the defendant currency. Therefore, we find that the claimants have failed to meet their burden of proving, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that the defendant currency was not furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for illegal drugs.
The claimants have proposed a conclusion of law to the effect that Mr. Camacho's consent to Trooper Tomasello's search of the car was not voluntary, and that, therefore, the fruits of the allegedly illegal search, including Mr. Camacho's statements while in custody and the defendant currency itself, must be suppressed and not considered by this court. We will not make such a conclusion of law.
Probable cause for forfeiture cannot rest upon tainted evidence because the exclusionary rule applies in civil forfeiture proceedings. Vance v. United States, 676 F.2d 183, 188 (5th Cir. 1982). The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments are not violated by a warrantless search without probable cause if the search was conducted pursuant to consent. The standard for the validity of a consent search is whether the consent was voluntary or coerced as analyzed under all of the circumstances of the individual search. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 233, 36 L. Ed. 2d 854, 93 S. Ct. 2041 (1973).
After stopping Mr. Camacho's car, Trooper Tomasello asked Mr. Camacho if he could search the car. The only evidence indicates that Mr. Camacho consented to the search without comment. Prior to conducting the search, Trooper Tomasello advised Mr. Camacho of his right to refuse to consent to the search, and he provided Mr. Camacho with a standardized consent form to fill out. While sitting in the back seat of the trooper's patrol car, Mr. Camacho signed the consent form. No other evidence has been offered regarding the circumstances surrounding Mr. Camacho's consent to the search. We find that Mr. Camacho consented to the search voluntarily, and that he was not coerced into consenting. Accordingly, we may properly consider the statements made by Mr. Camacho while in custody and the defendant currency itself in our evaluation of this case.
In summary, we find that the Government has met its burden of proving probable cause to believe that the defendant currency had been furnished in exchange for illegal drugs or that it constitutes the proceeds of such an exchange. We further find that the claimants have failed to introduce sufficient credible evidence to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant currency was not involved in illegal drug activity. Therefore, we will grant judgment for the plaintiff and order the defendant currency forfeit to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). The accompanying order will be entered.
DATED: December 14, 1989
This matter having been tried to the court, and the court having considered the testimony, exhibits and submissions of the parties;
IT IS, this 14th day of December, 1989, hereby
ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of plaintiff United States of America and against defendant $ 87,375 in United States Currency; and
It is FURTHER ORDERED that defendant $ 87,375 in United States Currency is to forfeit to plaintiff United States of America.
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