Columbus Police seize drug money

Published 12:07 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Columbus Police Department uncovered almost $160,000 during a checkpoint Aug. 6. (photo submitted)

The Columbus Police Department seized $159,785 over the weekend in what could be the largest money seizure in Polk County’s history.

The Columbus Police Department held a N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Checkpoint on Friday, Aug. 5 and discovered the money in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 6.

The checkpoint was held along Hwy. 108 near the Polk County Isothermal Community College with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Tryon Police Department also involved in the checkpoint.

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The vehicle stopped had one male occupant with the money hidden in manufactured compartments in the car.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have taken over the case, according to Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield.

Federal agents tested the money, which tested positive for cocaine, making it a drug money seizure.

Beddingfield said the money returned is expected to be split in percentages to the Columbus Police Department and other agencies involved. Normally, approximately 80 percent of drug seizure money is sent back to the local agency to be used for equipment and training.

“There is no question that the seized funds will dramatically help our department,” said Beddingfield. “This will allow us to replace outdated, worn equipment and purchase new equipment that will allow us to do more work such as this.  The main goal is to provide the highest level of service to citizens and business owners of the town without a tax or budget increase.”

Beddingfield said his department replaced weapons and holsters with a small money seizure earlier this year with no tax money being needed.

“This is a perfect example of why the Columbus Police Department is so active with the Governors Highway Safety Program,” Beddingfield said.  “Traffic enforcement keeps our town safe. At some point, all criminal activities go mobile. Whether it is stolen property from residential burglaries, drug crimes, or any other crime, that activity is eventually moved from place to place in vehicles on our roadways. The chances of catching criminals or illegal activities are much greater from a vehicle stop than actually catching them in the act.”

The man carrying the money was from out of state with local officials saying they expect to release more information later on arrests and charges expected to be made through the federal investigation.