Troopers Seize Millions - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/10/05 - Nacogdoches

Troopers Seize Millions

by Donna McCollum

The fourth largest cash seizure in the State of Texas is yet another reminder that Hiway 59 is a major drug corridor. Over two million dollars was hidden in an 18 wheeler, but not well enough to keep a Department of Public Safety trooper from finding it earlier this week.

Just counting the cold cash was a major undertaking. The money counting machines at Commercial Bank ran hot for four and a half hours. That's how long it takes to count 2.3 million dollars.

Teller Supervisor Pam Mora said, "I've worked with money for several years, but still in all a large volume it kinda excites you." Teller Dusty Brown admitted, "It was kinda nervous at first when all the troopers were in here watching us count the money."

But not near as nervous as Juan Castonan, 34,  of Mission. According to DPS he was driving his big rig too fast on Hiway 59. Then his log book just didn't match his story. That's when the trooper asked for a closer look.

Lt. Alan Alexander with Department of Public Safety Narcotics Division described the detection. "What he did was drill a hole into the wall. Then he stuck a scope in there and you could see the money behind the wall."

Troopers receive continual training on the red flags of drug and money trafficking. In this case the trooper measured the semi-trailer. The inside dimensions didn't add up to the exterior dimensions. Troopers then suspected a hidden compartment.

Troopers climbed over crates of frozen chickens to retrieve the cash. The money was hidden beneath the insulation of the refrigerated truck. Investigators suspect the mostly 20's, 50's and 100's came straight off the street from drug sales. Mexico was the intended destination.

The truck driver remains in jail. Federal charges are expected. And the trooper who made the bust intends to be back on the highway. We're not telling you his name. With a case like this, there's always a concern about retaliation.

Few people ever get close to over 2 million dollars in cash. Yet, for drug dealers, it's their payoff. Lt. Alexander said, I'm sure that they are not very happy that they lost their money. That's just part of doing business. It happens. They know that, but no they're not happy about it."

Who is happy are the bankers who wrote a 2.3 million dollar cashier's check to the U.S. Marshall's Service and sent the cash on its way to the Federal Reserve.

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