Donley County 2nd Degree Money Laundering Reduced to Misdemeanor and Money Returned
Mr. Lowe’s client was stopped by DPS Trooper Danny Nunez and later prosecuted by District Attorney Luke Inman of the 100th Judicial District of Texas (Carson County, Donley County, Hall County, Collingsworth County and Childress County). Trooper Nunez is one of the most prolific Drug Interdiction Police Officers in the State of Texas. Trooper Nunez is assigned to handle drug interdiction highway traffic investigation mostly inside Carson, Donley, Hall, Collingsworth and Childress Counties Texas. District Attorney Luke Inman is also one of the top drug interdiction prosecutors in the State of Texas. The 100th Judicial District dedicates a substantial portion of its law enforcement resources to investigating and prosecuting the drug and drug money laundering transportation through West Texas. Many cases involve Marijuana trafficked from California or Colorado into Texas. This district also specializes in interdicting large cash payments made to Marijuana manufacturers which happen to travel through this corridor inside the 100th Judicial District. These money laundering cases usually involve cash well over a $100,000.
Trooper Nunez is trained to spot drivers in rental vehicles who fit a certain profile. Trooper Nunez stopped Mr. Lowe’s client on July 9, 2014 while he was driving through Donley County, Texas on Highway 287. Trooper Nunez is trained to use certain tactics to extend a typical traffic violation stop and convert that stop into a full blown Felony Drug interdiction detention. In this case, Trooper Nunez asked Mr. Lowe’s client several questions while Trooper Nunez was doing a routine warrant check and writing up a traffic violation warning. Trooper Nunez discovered that Mr. Lowe’s client had just flown into DFW airport from San Jose, California earlier that day and had rented the car the same day as well. Mr. Lowe’s client claimed that he was looking for houses to buy in the Dallas area and then decided to drive back to California, instead of flying back. At the conclusion of the traffic violation warning, Trooper Nunez began questioning Mr. Lowe’s client about drugs and money laundering. Trooper Nunez asked Mr. Lowe’s client for consent to search the rental car. Mr. Lowe’s client denied consent and asked whether he could leave and go on his way. Trooper Nunez then “detained” Mr. Lowe’s client for suspicion of being involved in drug trafficking. Trooper Nunez is also trained to use tactics to get drivers to consent to search since 4th amendment caselaw greatly restricts the Trooper’s ability to detain drivers and wait for a K-9 dog to arrive. In particular, the Amarillo Court of Appeals, in Thomas vs. State of Texas, makes extended detentions even more tricky and difficult for law enforcement.
Trooper Nunez eventually did get consent from Mr. Lowe’s client and quickly discovery $130,000 in cash in the rental’s trunk. Mr. Lowe’s client was charged with 2nd degree Felony Money Laundering. In particular, he was accused of running a cash payment for a large marijuana shipment from California to Texas. The $130,000 was also seized and the subject of an article 59 forfeiture petition. When Mr. Lowe was hired, the $130,000 forfeiture was in default and the money had all be awarded to DPS and the District Attorney’s Office. Shortly after Mr. Lowe was hired, Mr. Lowe was able to have District Judge Stuart Messer set aside the default judgment and reinstate the forfeiture case so that his client could have an opportunity to get some or all of his money back.
Trooper Nunez’s tactics also resulted in Mr. Lowe filing a Motion To Suppress the detention and the voluntariness of the his client’s consent. On the day of the hearing, Mr. Lowe was able to convince the District Attorney to drop the 2nd degree felony Money Laundering case (Texas Penal Code 34.02(e)(2) ) down to a Class “A” misdemeanor Unlawful Use of a Criminal Instrument in violation Texas Penal Code 16.02. Moreover, Mr. Lowe’s work resulted in his client getting a very large portion of alleged Marijuana proceeds back. Mr. Lowe’s client will serve a short unsupervised misdemeanor deferred probation. Shortly thereafter, he will be able to have the entire case removed from his public criminal history.
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