Wyoming Supreme Court Reverses Decision Not to Seize $75K from Pot Dealer
After law enforcement seized $75,000 in U.S. currency from an alleged pot grower, District Court denied the forfeiture, saying the State had failed to meet its burden of proof showing the defendant's presence in Wyoming and the money were related to selling pot; but today, the Wyoming Supreme Court has reversed its decision.
On July 29, 2020, a Wyoming highway patrol trooper stopped Lorenzo Gallagas for speeding while headed west on Interstate 80 in Laramie County. Gallagas told the trooper he was traveling from Illinois to California. As they were talking, according to court records, the trooper smelled marijuana.
A search of Gallaga's vehicle turned up the large sum of cash along with marijuana, THC concentrates, and ecstacy. Law enforcement also found five cell phones with voicemails discussing pot growing and dealing. He told law enforcement the money had come from his bank as he planned to buy property in Illinois to grow cannabis.
The Wyoming Supreme Court's position three years later is that the State has met it's burden to prove that the money was connected to cannabis transactions. Voicemails from the seized phones include callers referring to "the freshest nicest greenish shiniest, yumm yumm yumm that we're looking for;" another caller: "wait no longer to get those plants in the dirt dude, everyday you waiting you losing;" and another: "grab those dudes and come over here as soon as possible, greenhouse no. 2 collapsed, the cookie one, the one we're harvesting..."
DCI agents concluded that the voicemails referred to at least five strains of marijuana: "Yum Yum," "Gorilla Glue," "Cookie," and "Magic Alien Cookie." All of which are illegal in the state of Wyoming.
Court records show that law enforcement also seized paperwork from Gallaga's vehicle with ledgers showing $130,000 in marijuana sales. Further, his tax records showed his only source of income was $5,856 in unemployment compensation back in 2012.
At first, the District Court ruled that seizing the $75,000 found in the vehicle was not apropriate as they were unable to prove that Gallagas intended to, or did, business of any sort in Wyoming and that he was merely passing through.
However, per the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act, possession of controlled substances with intent to manufacture or deliver is illegal, whether or not he intended to do conduct the transactions in Wyoming or not.
Ultimately, the Wyoming Supreme Court says District Court erred, and the decision to seize the cash has been reversed.
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