Federal authorities want to seize nearly $45,000 in cash taken from an Albany man during a Thruway traffic stop last summer.
The money was discovered in the trunk of a car driven by Isaac Ford, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court recently. Authorities contend the money is from drug sales and therefore subject to seizure. The Schenectady attorney for the defense, Stephen Rockmacher, countered this on Wednesday, saying the money was a legitimate gift from the man’s mother.
Ford, 34, and his passenger were stopped by state police on the Thruway near Coeymans in August, according to the filing. Ford was driving with a suspended license and on parole from a Schenectady drug case.
When asked by the trooper where the two were going, Ford responded that they were on their way to New York City to visit his brother. Troopers then moved to tow the vehicle, as neither Ford nor his passenger could legally drive it. The passenger had only a learner’s permit.
State police policy is to inventory a vehicle’s contents before towing it. During that check, the trooper found a gray bag in the trunk containing a large amount of cash, according to the filing. Inside, the cash was “packaged in $1,000 increments, commonly referred to as ‘quick-count’ bundles, indicative of currency involved with narcotics.”
Only the cash was found, no narcotics, and no charges were filed related to anything found in the car.
A state police drug-sniffing dog, though, “indicated a positive response” to the cash.
When asked about the cash, Ford allegedly responded that it was to buy a vehicle. He said half was his, half was his brother’s.
The passenger indicated Ford’s brother was in the hospital with diabetes and they were going to see him. She said she didn’t know anything about the money.
In all, $45,000 was seized, but two $10 bills were found to be counterfeit, making the actual value $44,980.
To help their argument to keep the cash, authorities point to Ford’s criminal history, which includes a 2009 attempted drug possession conviction and a 2002 drug possession conviction, both from Schenectady County.
Ford was returned to jail for violating his parole on the 2009 conviction but he was released last month, the filing reads.
In January, Ford filed a formal claim through Rockmacher to get the money back, saying it was a gift from his mother, something to which she can attest.
Rockmacher said Wednesday it perplexes him that police could have seized the money in the first place.
“As far as I know, it’s not illegal to carry cash in the trunk of a car,” he said.
A hearing has been set for July.