Children find money-filled suitcase in Barrington
Federal government aims to seize the $195,000
It reads like a Hollywood movie script, but it's real and it happened in Barrington.
According to a federal court document, a group of children playing in some woods near the Wampanoag Trail last October stumbled upon a suitcase that was packed heavy with cash.
The federal court document — it is called a verified complaint for forfeiture, with which the government seeks to seize the money — details how the children were playing in the wooded area on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, when one of them noticed the suitcase.
The children forced open the case, discovered the cash, and then took it back to a home where they told a parent about the situation.
The next morning, the parent brought the case — a waterproof Pelican brand case that had been secured with two padlocks — to the Barrington Police Station.
"The Barrington Police subsequently counted it with the assistance of a bank employee, and determined that it totaled $110,000 in United States currency," stated the federal court document.
That same day, one of the children led police officers back into the woods where the first case was found. The woods, which are located south of Pine Top Road and north of Primrose Hill Road, abut some town-owned property.
Officers noticed a second Pelican waterproof suitcase wedged into the notch of a tree, "approximately five feet off the ground in an area thick with vines and surrounded by several thorn bushes." Police believe the second case was located on town-owned property.
The second case was also secured by two padlocks; police later obtained a search warrant which gave them authorization to open the case. Inside was $85,000 in cash.
With both suitcases, officers noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the cash, and, according to an affidavit that supports the federal court document, law enforcement officials believe that the money was likely from the illegal sale of drugs.
"The second case was taken to the Rhode Island State Crime Lab where it was opened, and 42 bundles of money were found," stated the document. "Each bundle was secured with a rubber band, with the exception of one bundle that was secured with what appeared to be a woman's elastic hair band. This is consistent with how drug traffickers group money; it compresses large quantities of cash for easier storage as well as for transport, and the bundles aid drug traffickers in verifying the exact amount of money quickly."
Police conducted a test to verify whether narcotics could be detected on the money. Barrington police worked with a Cranston Police officer and his canine unit, Zeus, who reportedly indicated that "the odor of a controlled substance" was detected on the found money.
"…there is probable cause to believe or otherwise legally sufficient cause to believe that the two lots of currency…is the proceeds of the distribution of controlled substances and/or was intended to be furnished in exchange for controlled substances, and that therefore this currency is subject to seizure and forfeiture…" stated the document.
According to the court document, law enforcement believe the money was hidden in the woods by someone living in the area. No one has been charged and the investigation in ongoing.
Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said he could not comment on the particulars of the case.
He did, however, praise the actions of the people who turned over the money to the police back in Oct. 2016.
"The parents did the right thing," said Chief LaCross. "It showed a lot of integrity and good moral character."
Claiming the money
Officials have said that the filing of the federal court document initiated the start of a 30-day period during which individuals can file a claim to the found money. Anyone filing a claim will later meet with officials from the federal government to discuss the claim.
Stephen G. Dambruch, acting US Attorney for Rhode Island, and Mary Rogers, assistant US Attorney, filed the verified complaint for forfeiture on Thursday, May 25.