Money seized during drug search doing honest work for Walla Walla

Interest has piled up, to the tune of $24,000, on a handsome stash of suspect cash seized in 2006.

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WALLA WALLA -- A stash of suspect cash has been doing some honest work for the city of Walla Walla lately.

The money, $401,333.44 seized during a drug search, has earned $24,100 in interest over the past two years, said Jean Teasdale, city finance manager.

Most of the interest was generated in 2007 and 2008 when rates were higher, Teasdale said. Interest income dropped in 2009 with only $2,700 generated.

Police discovered the cash in 2006 at a house in the 1000 block of St. John Street when they were called there on a report of suspicious activity. It was the largest cash seizure in recent memory, according to officers.

Along with the money, much of packed in vacuum-sealed bags, police found a small quantity of marijuana and cocaine. A 22-year-old man in the house, Adrian Ibarra-Raya, was arrested and later claimed the money belonged to him.

The cash was first stored in a safe deposit box as the city proceeded with civil forfeiture proceedings. But after obtaining a legal opinion, it was pulled out in 2007 and put into the city's general investment pool, Teasdale said. The money and interest were then tracked under a separate line item.

Although a state court of appeals later ruled that officers did not have probable cause to enter the home, the city was able to continue to seek forfeiture of the money on the grounds that it was the proceeds from the sale of narcotics and that Ibarra-Raya was not the rightful owner.

After a two-day trial in December, Walla Walla County Superior Court Donald W. Schacht ruled in favor of the city.

The attorney who represented Ibarra-Raya at the trial, Janelle Carman, said today she had no comment on whether she will appeal.

Tim Bennett, public information officer for city police, said that in 2007 the department received authorization to spend $40,000 of the money to buy vehicles and computer software.

Under state law, the seized funds can only be used to expand and improve "controlled substances law-enforcement activity." In addition, 10 percent of the net proceeds is given to the state for deposit in the general fund.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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