The federal government wants to keep more than $1 million in alleged drug money discovered during a March 3 traffic stop near North Platte.
A Nebraska State Patrol trooper found the money in a rental car driven by Rajesh Manju Dheri and Marina Dheri, a New Jersey couple, after stopping the car for speeding eastbound on Interstate 80.
The trooper gave Rajesh Dheri a speeding ticket, and Dheri told the trooper he and his wife were driving from Los Angeles to New Jersey and visiting family along the way, according to a complaint for forfeiture of the money filed Friday.
Both Dheris then verbally consented to a search of the car, and the trooper found two duffel bags filled with large plastic bags containing bundles of cash.
The couple said the money was given to them by a friend so they could start a business in New Jersey, documents say. They had no paperwork documenting the gift.
The couple was detained and taken to the Nebraska State Patrol office in North Platte, along with the rental car and the money. There, a drug detector dog detected an odor of controlled substances emanating from the cash.
The cash -- totaling $1,074,900 -- is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service in Omaha.
The government says it believes the money was intended to be used in exchange for controlled substances or to violate the Controlled Substances Act.
Usually, a complaint of forfeiture in rem is made against property itself, not against its owner. The guilt or innocence of the owner is irrelevant, and the property may be removed without criminal charges ever being filed.
At this time, Rajesh and Marina Dheri have been charged only with speeding.