Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said his office is trying to legally seize the money for law enforcement agencies to use against drug dealers.
“We’re talking about an incredibly large scale this was $2.4 million in cash that was hidden throughout the SUV in secret compartments,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said two women allegedly were returning to Arizona from a cross-country drug delivery to Pennsylvania on Interstate 55 near Collinsville on September 4. A state police officer pulled the women over because of a problem with the vehicle’s license plate. The women got nervous, a drug dog was called in, and that’s when the cash was discovered. Authorities said the women told them they were unaware of the hidden money.
Yesenia Guillen and Francisca Encinas were each charged with money laundering. Court papers indicate there was a juvenile with them, but neither woman was the juvenile’s mother or guardian.
“The juvenile is in protective custody,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons is now seeking to force the owner of the money, whoever that might be, to forfeit it because it’s believed to be drug money. If that happens, state police will receive a big portion of it. The money would then be used by authorities to fight drug trafficking.
Gibbons said he fears it’s only a fraction of the money and drugs being transported on area highways. He said the interstates are used for distributing Mexican cartel drugs across the United States.
“This case is just one example we believe is happening—if not on a daily basis—happening several times a week in Madison County, through Madison County,” he said.
Drug traffickers are always evolving, according to Gibbons. They use rental cars and to disguise this one he said they put a Hello Kitty license plate bracket on the SUV, as well as stick figures of a family on the back window. The ruse didn’t work.