In another case of Police abusing their power, we have this story out of Tennessee. Apparently local laws allow officers to stop cars and seize all money “suspected” of being drug money. How convenient for the cops to have a law to “legally” rob people just for having “suspicious” amounts of cash.
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A major News Channel 5 investigation has uncovered serious questions about Tennessee’s war on drugs. Among the questions: are some police agencies more concerned about making money off the drugs, than stopping them?
At the center of this months-long investigation are laws that let officers pull driver over looking for cash. Those officers do not even have to file criminal charges against a person to take his/her money.
It turns out, those kind of stops are now happening almost every day in Middle Tennessee. Case in point: a 2009 stop where a tractor trailer was stopped for a traffic violation, leading to a search and the discovery of large blocks containing almost $200,000 cash — cash that officers keep on the suspicion that it’s drug money.
“What’s wrong with having a large amount of cash?” asked Karen Petrosyan, a California businessman who owned the truck.
Petrosyan refuses to admit there’s anything suspicious about the stash that police discovered. Officers later released his father, who was driving the truck, without filing a single charge — and authorities cut a deal that let Petrosyan come to Tennessee to get his big rig back.
Read officers’ narrative about why money seized
“If I am a criminal, if they allege me to be a criminal,” Petrosyan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates , “why would they settle? They do not just let criminals go.”
District Attorney General Kim Helper said that “in general, it was seized because — based upon our evidence and probable cause — it’s illegal drug proceeds.”
Still, Helper admitted that what makes the Petrosyan case a bit unusual is the location. The traffic stop occurred in Smith County, near the Carthage exit. But the officers work for Helper’s 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force out of Franklin — more than an hour away. Her officers patrol that area under a deal where they give a third of any cash they seize to the agency that owns that stretch of road.Read the agreement between the 21st and 15th judicial districts.
“It’s a way to make money … for your task force?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Helper.
The DA paused.
“Honestly?” we asked, prompting a smile from Helper.
“Well, you know, when you say ‘make money,’ I guess it is a way for us to continue to fund our operations so that we can put an end to drug trafficking and the drug trade within this district,” she responded.