A Southern California mechanic and his wife, an unemployed ex-J.C. Penney clerk, have demanded that the U.S. Marshal's office return more than $222,000 taken from their 12-year-old Chrysler Voyager by government agents.
But U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials argue that the money, hidden behind speakers, was rightfully confiscated because it is proceeds from illegal narcotics trafficking.
A police dog named “Rebel” located the more than 7,700 U.S. currency bills during a March 2012 traffic stop in San Juan Capistrano.
The Fontana Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers had been monitoring cell phone traffic from the Voyager prior to the stop and claim they recorded coded language involving drug deals.
When first questioned, the occupants of the vehicle claimed ignorance of the hidden cash, according to a DOJ report.
The couple eventually hired a San Diego lawyer, who asserted that his Spanish-speaking clients misunderstood questions and should have the money returned to them.
Last week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter wasn't impressed by the couple's argument and declared that the government is entitled to keep the cash.