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Wall Street Journal, 2 June 1993
Cocaine-Tainted Cash Faulted as Evidence
by Arthur S. Hayes

     Chances are pretty good that there are traces of cocaine in your wallet right now.
And that's bad news for drug prosecutors.
     The problem is that cocaine sticks to cash whenever money is handled by drug dealers and
users. And studies show that cocaine is in such wide use nationally that a sizable percentage of paper
money bears traces of it--a finding that courts are starting to cite in ruling against prosecutors. 
     Within the past 18 months, two federal appeal courts have strongly questioned the
government's reliance on cocaine-tainted cash. And in a ruling in April, a federal trial judge said the
mere presence of such cocaine traces doesn't give officials the necessary "probable cause" to launch
an extensive search for drugs or to confiscate the cash.
     Nancy Hollander, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said,
"We're going to see more and more lawyers using these rulings in arguments to suppress evidence by
challenging the validity of dog sniffs [detecting cocaine] and confiscation of cash."
     The court decisions cite the findings of scientific and informal tests conducted in the late
1980s. Some of the tests showed that more than 95% of the cash in circulation is cocaine-
contaminated because residue from the drug remains long after the initial exposure.
     One of the studies that has proved more damaging to prosecutors was done by Sanford A.
Angelos, a forensic chemist with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's North Central
Laboratory in Chicago. The study, which the agency has dismissed as "just one man's unscientific
assessment," concluded that a third of the samples taken from several Chicago banks and from the
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago were contaminated. The tests results were reported in an undated
internal DEA memo and first surfaced publicly as evidence in a trial in Los Angeles three years ago.
     In the memo, Mr. Angelos said the belts of the bill sorter at the reserve bank was spreading
the contamination to more and more cash. Mr. Angelos recommended, among other things, that
"trace analysis of currency for general enforcement or seizure be stopped."
     The Angelos study was recently cited by the attorney for Willie L. Jones, a Nashville
landscaper who went to court to recover $9,000 that U.S. drug agents seized from his in 1991 under
the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law. As in many cash-seizure cases, Mr.
Jones had been stopped at an airport while he was waiting to catch a flight. The RICO law allows the
government to seize cash from people suspected of certain crimes, on the theory that the assets are
related to criminal activity. 
     In April, in apparently the first ruling of its kind, Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr. of federal
court in Nashville ordered the government return the cash to Mr. Jones. The judge said in his ruling
that "the presence of trace narcotics on currency does not yield any relevant information whatsoever
about the currency's history."
     Michael L. Roden, an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville, said no decision had been made
about appealing Judge Wiseman's ruling.
     The Sixth U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati also raised questions about the use of
cocaine-tainted cash as evidence in a decision in January involving the seizure of $53,082. The court
cited, among other studies, a test conducted four years ago by Lee Hearn, chief toxicologist for the
Dade County medical examiner's officer in Miami. In a study of currency from banks in cities around
the country, Mr. Hearn concluded that 97% of the bills tested positive for cocaine.
     The Sixth Circuit panel said that because of such tests, "a court should seriously question the
value of a dog's alert [indicating cocaine] without other persuasive evidence." The appeals court panel
threw out the seizure as unconstitutional on other grounds. The in Detroit yesterday
asked the entire appeals court to review the panel's decision.
     The U.S.Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised similar doubts about the use of
cocaine-contaminated cash as evidence in a case last year. Citing the studies, the court said the
government had conducted an improper search and seizure in taking cash and other items from a
traveler on a train.
     Prosecutors' reliance on such evidence prompted a state appeals court in Miami to go so far
as to overturn a drug-possession conviction in April. The court ruled that a cocaine-contaminated
dollar bill wasn't enough evidence to sustain a drug-possession conviction in south Florida where
"cocaine can be found on much of the currency." Prosecutors in Florida said they wouldn't appeal the
state appeals court's reversal of the drug conviction.
     Theodore S. Greenberg, chief of the Justice Department's money-laundering section, said the
recent rulings haven't discouraged the government's use of cocaine-tainted cash as evidence. "Yes,
we'll continue to use these techniques as is necessary in all the cases," Mr. Greenberg said.
     One reason, prosecutors say, is that other evidence usually backs up seizure of cash in such
cases. For instance, they argue that in many cases where currency is seized, the suspects have
previous arrest records or can't explain whey they are traveling with such large amounts of cash..


From: (Sol Lightman)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Re: Dectectable Cocaine in money
Date: 19 Apr 1993 22:19:40 GMT

Reprinted by permission from the 'Pittsburgh Press'


Copyright, 1991, The Pittsburgh Press Co.
By Andrew Schneider and Mary Pat Flaherty
The Pittsburgh Press

     Police seize money from thousands of people each year because a dog with a
badge sniffs, barks or paws to show that bills are tainted with drugs.

     If a police officer picks you out as a likely drug courier, the dog is
used to confirm that your money has the smell of drugs.

     But scientists say the test the police rely on is no test at all because
drugs contaminate virtually all the currency in America.

     Over a seven-year period, Dr. Jay Poupko and his colleagues at Toxicology
Consultants Inc. in Miami have repeatedly tested currency in Austin, Dallas,
Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New York City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and
Syracuse. He also tested American bills in London.

     "An average of 96 percent of all the bills we analyzed from the 11 cities
tested positive for cocaine. I don't think any rational thinking person can
dispute that almost all the currency in this country is tainted with drugs,"
Poupko says.

     Scientists at National Medical Services, in Willow Grove, Pa., who tested
money from banks and other legal sources more than a dozen times, consistently
found cocaine on more than 80 percent of the bills.

     "Cocaine is very adhesive and easily transferable," says Vincent Cordova,
director of criminalistics for the private lab. "A police officer, pharmacist,
toxicologist or anyone else who handles cocaine, including drug traffickers,
can shake hands with someone, who eventually touches money, and the
contamination process begins."

     Cordova and other scientists use gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy,
precise alcohol washes and a dozen other sophisticated techniques to identify
the presence of narcotics down to the nanogram level one billionth of a gram.
That measure, which is far less than a pin point, is the same level a dog can
detect with a sniff.

     What a drug dog cannot do, which the scientists can, is quantify the
amount of drugs on the bills.

     Half of the money Cordova examined had levels of cocaine at or above 9
nanograms. This level means the bills were either near a source of cocaine or
were handled by someone who touched the drug, he says.

     Another 30 percent of the bills he examined show levels below 9 nanograms,
which indicates "the bills were probably in a cash drawer, wallet or some
place where they came in contact with money previously contaminated."

     The lab's research found $20 bills are most highly contaminated, with $10
and $5 bills next. The $1, $50 and $100 bill usually have the lowest cocaine

     Cordova urges restraint in linking possession of contaminated money to a
criminal act.

     "Police aid prosecutors have got to use caution in how far they go. The
presence of cocaine on bills cannot be used as valid proof that the holder of
the money, or the bills themselves, have ever been in direct contact with
drugs," says Cordova, who spent II years directing the Philadelphia Police
crime laboratory.

     Nevertheless, more and more drug dogs are being put to work.

     Some agencies, like the U.S. Customs Service, are using passive dogs that
don't rip into an item or person - when the dogs find something during a
search. These dogs just sit and wag their tails. German shepherds with names
like Killer and Rambo are being replaced by Labradors named Bruce or Memphis'
"Chocolate Mousse."

     Marijuana presents its own problems for dogs since its very pungent smell
is long-lasting. Trainers have testified that drug dogs can react to clothing,
containers or cars months after marijuana has been removed.

     A 1989 case in Richmond, Va., addressed the issue of how reliable dogs are
in marijuana searches.

     Jack Adams, a special agent with the Virginia State Police, supervised
training of drug dogs for the state.

     He said the odor from a single suitcase filled with marijuana and placed
with 100 other bags in a closed Amtrak baggage car in Miami could permeate all
the other bags in the car by the time the train reached Richmond.

     And what happens to the mountain of "drug-contaminated" dollars the
government seizes each year? The bills aren't burned, cleaned, or stored in a
well-guarded warehouse.

     Twenty-one seizing agencies questioned all said the tainted money was
deposited in a local bank - which means it's back in circulation.


And they wonder why I drag my feet getting a job....


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