The county and state law enforcers are trying to keep more than $40,000 in suspected drug cash seized during drug busts on U.S. 59 in Wharton County.
Almost $25,000 of it was found hidden behind a small child’s car seat while the remaining funds were located in an assortment of colorful bags located in a separate vehicle.
The cash, collected by the Wharton County Sheriff’s Department, is currently being held by authorities. The funds would be divided between state and local agencies if awarded. In each case, the money was discovered during a narcotics investigation.
Flora Azucena Maldonado-Chaves of Rio Grande City had $24,995 when her Nissan Rouge was stopped by state troopers on Dec. 18, 2019, for following too close behind a semi-truck, according to documents filed in Wharton County’s 329th District Court.
After questioning Maldonado, the driver of the southbound vehicle, troopers asked for and received permission to search. One trooper, according to court documents, “observed the child’s car seat to be seat belted in multiple times and felt that it was suspicious due to the fact that car seat manufacturers don’t require the car seat to contain that many points of contact.”
The troopers moved the arm rest located behind the car seat and found “multiple bundles of U.S. currency to be concealed in the cup holders and behind the arm rest.”
Almost $23,000 was located there. Another almost $2,000 was found in Maldonado’s wallet.
An estimated $9,000 in gold medallions also found in the vehicle were not included in the seizure notification.
In the 23rd District Court, officials are asking a judge to or order $15,700 in alleged drug cash be forfeited.
The cash was seized from Mario Oscar Bendavides Romano of Rio Grande City on Dec. 7, 2019 after troopers stopped his southbound Nissan for an obscured license plate.
“During the search of the Nissan (a trooper) located one purple plastic bag, one floral print bag, one red flower purse and one tan wallet containing large amounts of U.S. currency,” according to the court documents.
Romano claimed an unknown man he met on a Houston sidewalk paid him to deliver the case to a site in Mexico.
Officers seized the dollars as suspected drug trafficking proceeds and now await the Judge Ben Hardin’s decision on whether it will be forfeited to the government.