LARGO — After Largo police pulled over Antonio Patterson for a traffic infraction, they found the Largo man was traveling with $9,800, his attorney says.
Patterson, 25, was slapped with a $116 ticket for not wearing a seat belt, and he was given a warning for following another car too closely.
But he wasn’t arrested.
Still, Largo police took and kept most of the cash.
On Friday, Patterson’s attorney, Nat Kidder, filed a lawsuit against the city. Patterson wants his money back.
Police generally can seize cash — or a car or house for that matter — if it’s considered the illicit gains of a criminal enterprise, but that’s apparently not the case here.
“No criminal charges have been filed as a result of the investigation resulting in the seizure of the subject currency, and none are expected,” the lawsuit says.
Largo wants proof it’s Patterson’s money, or a court order from a judge ordering the police department to give it back, Assistant City Attorney Mary Hale said.
The problem, she said, is Patterson initially denied the money was his.
“Without any documentation or court order ... we’re not going to turn over money somebody has denied ownership of,” Hale said.
Largo police did give Patterson $1,800 of the $9,800, but kept the remaining $8,000, Kidder said.
Kidder said the cash was a combination of personal savings and a loan from his mother that was going to be put toward a real estate deal.
When police stopped the car Patterson was driving on Jan. 16, they searched the vehicle “based upon an ‘alleged’ odor of marijuana,” the lawsuit says.
“The vehicle search revealed no marijuana or marijuana residue, no paraphernalia, or evidence of any illegal or unlawful activity,” the suit says.
What officers did find was $8,000 hidden in a hallowed-out container, said Lt. Steve Slaughter of the Largo Police Department.
“We’re just at the point where we can’t arbitrarily release it in case it’s someone else’s money,” Slaughter said. “We need to assume it’s not his money like he told us.”
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