Iredell County sheriff’s investigators seized $312,000 in cash during two recent traffic stops on Interstate 77.
Sheriff Darren Campbell said the money likely has ties to illegal narcotics and organized crime. No arrests have been made, but Campbell said the “Operation Tar Heel Gauntlet” investigation by his office and Homeland Security agents is continuing.
In the latest case, investigators said they seized $160,000 in cash on Oct. 30 from a vehicle they stopped for a traffic violation on I-77 southbound at the Tomlin Mill Road exit.
A police dog gave a “positive alert” for the presence of narcotics around the vehicle, Campbell said.
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Officers found a duffel bag with 16 bundles of packaged U.S. bills wrapped in thick black tape, the sheriff said.
The driver and passenger were from New York. They told investigators they didn’t know each other and didn’t know the vehicle’s registered owner, Campbell said.
Both were taken to the sheriff’s office for questioning by sheriff’s investigators and agents from the Homeland Security Office in Charlotte.
On Oct. 26, sheriff’s investigators seized $152,000 in cash from the driver of a rented vehicle on I-77 south. Again investigators stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation.
The driver was an Atlanta man who served time in federal prison for drug trafficking, Campbell said.
The man told deputies the car had been rented by a third party, and he was not sure where his final destination would be.
Authorities said organized crime networks and narcotics trafficking operations sometimes use “currency mules.”
“The interstates which go through Iredell County are major arteries for criminal activity,” Campbell said.