Civil Asset Forfeiture

Judge Orders Nebraska State Police to Return $1 Million They Stole From a Stripper


In my January feature story about drug-detecting dogs, I noted that police have a direct financial interest in dogs that alert on cue or indiscriminately, since alleged traces of illegal substances can be cited as an excuse to seize motorists' money, even though contamination of currency with cocaine and other drugs appears to be pervasive. That is what happened to $1 million in cash that Nebraska state troopers found in the trunk of Rajesh and Marina Dheri's car after they pulled the couple over for speeding last year. ABC News reports that the Dheris consented to a search and that the troopers, after finding a hundred $10,000 stacks of bills bound with hair ties in plastic bags, arrested them on suspicion of drug trafficking. A police dog supposedly confirmed that the money had been in contact with drugs. But it turned out that the money belonged to the Dheris' friend Tara Mishra, a 33-year-old woman from Rancho Cucamonga, California, who had saved it up since she was 18, when she began working as an exotic dancer. The Dheris planned to use Mishra's money to buy a New Jersey nightclub that she and they would run together.

Unlike many other forfeiture stories, this one has a relatively happy ending: Last week U.S. District Judge Bataillon ordered the Nebraska State Patrol to return Mishra's money, plus interest. "The government failed to show a substantial connection between drugs and the money," Bataillon wrote in his ruling. "The dog sniff is inconsequential…The court finds the Dheris' story is credible…Ms. Mishra did have control over the money and directed the Dheris to deliver the money to New Jersey for the purchase of the business."

I say the outcome was "relatively happy" because Mishra and the Dheris were forced to put their business plans on hold for over a year and pay for a legal challenge aimed at getting back the money that the police stole from her. People with less at stake often conclude that it's cheaper just to give up. Short of repealing drug prohibition, the solution to this sort of injustice is abolishing civil forfeiture and requiring a conviction as a condition of confiscating property allegedly tied to a crime. 

Addendum: The Institute for Justice notes that "Nebraska  is one of only three states that holds the government to the highest possible legal standard of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings, requiring law enforcement to prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt." That probably explains why the cops in this case pursued forfeiture under federal law, which offers weaker protections for innocent owners. Banning such federal "adoption" is another reform that would help curtail forfeiture abuses, as would funneling forfeiture proceeds into the general fund rather than the coffers of police departments and prosecutors' offices.

[Thanks to Joe Kristan for the tip.]

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  1. Not only did she earn $1 million bills, but it’s all in 100s.

    What kind of high-end strip club did this lady work for?

    1. And burdened with all those bills, wouldn’t her pants fall down?

      1. How do you think she became a stripper?

    2. Seriously, we’re all missing out.

      I don’t know many strippers I’d give $100 to.

      1. I’d strip down to my G-strong if the patrons stuffed $100 bills in it.

        Rule 34, baby!

        1. G-string

          1. I like G-Strong better – it has brand potential.

            “If you’re packin’ HEAT…you need the G-Strong. if you’re hung like a HORSE….the G-Strong is made for YOU!”

            1. I imagine a bunch of guys with really small penises buying the G-Strong to make themselves feel bigger.

        2. Trademark that. Now.

          1. Will he have to fight with this guy over it?

            It was the top search on Google before it decided that I really meant g-string. And now I have pictures of men in posing pouches in my web history at work.

            1. As if you didn’t already.

              1. No, that’s completely fair.

          2. ^This.

            I originally read it as string, but when you called attention to it I became…interested.

    3. Where do you find high-end anything in Rancho Cucamonga?

    4. my neighbor’s aunt makes $73/hr on the computer. She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $18821 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site… http://WWW.CNN13.COM

  2. Short of repealing drug prohibition, the solution to this sort of injustice is abolishing civil forfeiture and requiring a conviction as a condition of confiscating property allegedly tied to a crime

    Sounds like a good next project for Amash or Paul. Since there is not any other congress critters who will stand up for the people who voted them in, with the exception of Massie.

  3. Stories like this should be mandatory reading for all the dipshits who come here and spout “HURR DURR STUPID HIPPIES” when Reason mentions the Drug War. The Drug War is the single greatest threat to civil liberties in this country right now.

    1. To be fair, we have Warty.

    2. Everyone knows that teh globul terrrrrrzzztzz are an existential threat to every US citizen, followed by teh drugzz.

      Why do you love the IslamoFascistTerrrrrzztJunkies Jordan?

      1. Sigh. Alma, remember that the GWO(S)D is a component of the GWOT.

        1. gay war on titties?

          1. Noooo….

          2. That’s the fault of homoextremists in the fashion industry. Most of us are extremely pro-titties even if it’s just in the abstract.

            It’s a coin toss if women will be extra annoyed or highly entertained when they have to tell a gay man “my eyes are up here”.

            1. jesse, I am laughing so hard right now and you know why. Because you are SO RIGHT.

            2. I used to have a picture of a (gay male) colleague with a Hooter’s waitress on his lap. Is he looking at the camera? At one of his colleagues at the table? Nope. His face is practically buried in her tatas. We had fun with that one when we got it developed (yes, it was that long ago and I am that old!)

              1. “Developed.”

            3. Not abstract so much as non-sexual.

            4. Nikki: I thought you’d appreciate that.

              KK: There were a few moments like that at my 30th, but I don’t think anyone had the good sense to photograph them. This is why I don’t drink rum.

              1. Boobs are awesome. I fail to see what’s not to like. I mean, both sexes have messy, smelly bits whose charms–even on a good day–can be variable, but boobs should have a widespread appeal.

  4. “We will seize…One. Million. Dollars.”

    1. “We’re not so different, you and I, Mister Powers. You have one million dollars. And I want one million dollars….”

      1. “We’re not so different, you and I…”

        h/t some other commenter

  5. Also, hooray for happy endings.

    1. I see what you did there.

      1. Are you mocking the famous courtesan Ha Pien Ding?

  6. This just means the appeals process is about to begin. They still won’t be getting their money back anytime soon. No doubt the state will announce their determination to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court. With taxpayer dollars, of course.

  7. You know who else wrongly confiscated property from citizens…

    1. George Soros?

    2. Robert Mugabe?

    3. Every government ever?

  8. Great story, Bob! My cousin’s sister’s nephew’s roomate has a co-worker who made $1,000,000 stripping from home. Please visit http://www.dontconsenttoasearchwitha

    1. Doubt they needed consent with DRUG DOGZ

      1. Hey, if you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide.

        1. This is one defendant who can clearly say she had nothing to hide as that’s how she made the money to begin with.

          1. nothing to hide… except the unpaid taxes. whoops.

            a million in 15 years means she saved $66,666.67 per year. on top of living expenses and (supposedly) the taxes paid. assuming she filed taxes at all, she probably claims she made what, $100,000 a year? Uncle Sam gets at least 20%, so after taxes she was living on 13 grand a year? hmm OK.

      2. Right. Consent is irrelevant when the cops have a probable cause generating machine.

        1. Not true. By consenting to a search, she could be fucking herself in court proceedings if it comes out that there was something improper about the officer’s reasonable suspicion to detain or probable cause to search. By withholding consent, you keep your legal options a little more open if you’re being prosecuted.

          1. Would that count as a strip search?

  9. Judge Batallion [wrote] “The dog sniff is inconsequential.”

    Oh, a *cat* person, eh?

    Seriously, why don’t the cops use gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or something if they’re trying to be “consequential”? They apparently make enough from asset forfeiture to afford it.

    1. They don’t want to use a machine with the ability to falsify their probable cause later in court.

    1. Yeah, at *least* give sarc a tip of the G-strong.

  10. OT: How do cops tolerate search dogs? I thought it was SOP to shoot dogs on sight.

    1. Search dogs are COPS first, dogs second (unless they are accidentally left to die in a cop car, in which case they’re just dumb animals).

  11. USD are legal tender for all debts public and private. We are not encouraged to use USD for transactions, we are virtually required to do so. And yet having lots of USD is criminal activity?

    A :p B

    1. Because FYTW and papa needs a new APC.

  12. I’m sure Ms. Mishra will be getting an IRS audit real soon.

    1. let’s hope so. they already harass the rest of us that actually pay our taxes in full and on time every year… if the tax laws weren’t oppressive enough!

  13. Short of repealing drug prohibition, the solution to this sort of injustice is abolishing civil forfeiture and requiring a conviction as a condition of confiscating property allegedly tied to a crime.

    That’s on the To-Do list. Right after they repeal the First and Second Amendments.

  14. Fucking thieves.

    1. Exactly.

  15. well of course, she paid every penny due on that million in federal and state income taxes, not to mention SS withholding as an independent self-employed contractor. of course.

    meanwhile if you or me (chained to our desk in an office all day), having filed a 1040 annually (in addition to taxes withheld and sending tens of thousands to the IRS year in and year out), have a tax return which appears to be off by even $50, you can expect at least 17 threatening letters in the mail from the IRS. or the pleasure of being audited. while Obama rants against anyone who makes over $50k at an honest living to simply “pay their fair share”.

    the police should have simply called the Feds to come get their portion of the money (with interest and penalties) rather than trying to find something inherently illegal about possessing it. I’m sure people like Wesley Snipes and Willie Nelson would probably have something to say about this.

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