FBI seized $77,000 in cash saying it’s drug money. Owners say it was to buy bitcoin

The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized more than $77,000 in cash that was stuffed into two bags and brought to Dallas’ Love Field Airport in January, alleging that the bags smelled like marijuana, according to a complaint for forfeiture filed in federal court on Friday.

The complaint alleges that a supervisor with Southwest Airlines smelled marijuana coming from the two bags — a leopard print backpack and a duffel bag — on Jan. 20. Bundles of cash were apparently “spilling out of the backpack,” according to the complaint.

Both bags were checked in and tagged to go to Burbank, California.

The man whose name was on the duffel bag told investigators that he was traveling to California to meet with someone about bitcoin trading. He planned to return to Dallas within 24 hours, the complaint said. The woman who owns the backpack also claimed she was traveling to Burbank to trade bitcoins.

A bitcon is a type of digital currency that is created and exchanged independent of banks or governments. Transactions are usually handled anonymously.

The woman told investigators that she made the money working as a lash extension technician and selling hair to different salons. The man said he works in the music business, the complaint said.

According to bitcoin converters, the $77,010 in cash the pair had could have gotten them about 9 bitcoins.

Investigators used a police dog to perform a sniff test on the luggage, and the dog alerted to both the backpack and duffel bag, the complaint said.

The man told police they smoked marijuana a day earlier, which he said is why the money smelled.

“The currency had a pungent and distinctive smell of fresh marijuana,” the complaint said.

Investigators wrote in the complaint that in their experience, people who buy or sell drugs check bags that are small enough to be carry-on bags so they don’t have to go through TSA checkpoints with alleged drugs or money. They said the man was acting very nervously during the interview and that the woman’s story wasn’t consistent.

The $77,010 was seized by the FBI under the forfeiture law.

There were no criminal complaints filed against either the man or woman by Monday afternoon.

Nichole Manna, 817-390-7684, @NicholeManna
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram