NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Following a traffic stop on Loop 224 on October 10, Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested a 30-year-old Georgia man on felony charges after they allegedly found $1.1 million in suspected drug money in the cargo area of his SUV.
Ricardo Avalos-Victor is still being held in the Nacogdoches County Jail on a first-degree felony money laundering charge and a third-degree felony regulation of money services charge. Collectively, his bail amount has been set at $2.20 million.
Obviously, when you make that kind of seizure, you have to worry about people's risk - to the person you're seizing it from and maybe their immediate family," said Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges.
According to a press release issued Wednesday, NCSO deputies stopped Avalos-Victor, who was driving a rented white Ford SUV, for speeding on Loop 224 near the Old Tyler Road off-ramp Saturday. Because Avalos appeared nervous and kept giving conflicting statements about his trip, the deputies became suspicious that criminal activity was occurring.
Expanding further, Bridges said that Avalos-Victor's story about driving from Chicago to Houston to visit family and watch a football game just didn't add up.
"The suspect denied that the money belonged to him," the press release stated. "He confirmed the deputies' original suspicions that the money was proceeds from drug cartel activity."
When the NCSO deputies conducted a search of the SUV, they found the cash in three duffel bags in the vehicle's cargo area, the press release stated. Sheriff's office investigators arrived on the scene, and did a thorough count of the money.
After the money was sorted by face value, it was divided into $5,000 bundles.
"An official count of the money took several hours and ultimately resulted in a final total of $1,150,650 dollars," the press release stated.
A representative with the Nacogdoches County District Attorney's Office went to the sheriff's office and worked with NCSO deputies to prepare the paperwork required to file a civil forfeiture action against the money. In addition, the US Attorney's Office has expressed interest in filing criminal charges against Avalos-Victor, the press release stated.
"Concern for the physical safety of the defendant's family prompted a request from Nacogdoches County law enforcement to seal the civil forfeiture case from public access," the press release stated. "An order sealing the case was signed, allowing the defendant's family time to take appropriate measure to ensure their safety. The order expired yesterday."
According to the press release, the DA's Office worked closely with a lawyer for Avalos-Victor over a period of several weeks. Avalos-Victor allegedly maintained his position that the money wasn't his. As a result, an agreed judgment was signed.
Bridges said that Avalos-Victor admitted that he had been paid $4,000 to haul the $1.1 million in cash that was seized from his rented SUV. He added that in his statement, Avalos-Victor said the cash was cartel money.
"Therefore, an agreed judgment was ultimately signed. The defendant released any claim to the money and agreed that it was contraband. Therefore, the money was awarded to the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office and the Nacogdoches District Attorney's Office," the press release stated. "The money will be used to further strengthen law enforcement activities, equipment and prosecution which will benefit the citizens of Nacogdoches County."