Kids were pawns in alleged East Texas shakedown scheme - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Kids were pawns in alleged East Texas shakedown scheme

DALLAS (AP) - Authorities in an East Texas town under investigation for allegedly shaking down motorists for their cash sometimes used the travelers' children as bargaining chips in their attempt to seize money.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press describe the extent to which children became pawns as authorities in Tenaha near the Louisiana border accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars through highway traffic stops.

The records show that authorities separated a small child from one couple and threatened to do the same to another during stops on U.S. Highway 59.

The Justice Department has been investigating Tenaha and Shelby County officials since they were named in a 2008 class action lawsuit alleging that a drug interdiction program was in fact a scheme to use trumped-up money laundering charges to seize cash from motorists.

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