Citing a lack of candor by the government in its court papers, a federal judge has ordered the return of $167,000 seized from a man’s motor home during a traffic stop near Elko.
State and local law enforcement officers stopped Straughn Gorman, a resident of Hawaii, twice within 50 minutes in January 2013 as he was driving the motor home west on Interstate 80 between Wells and Elko, according to court documents.
A Nevada Highway Patrol trooper said he first stopped Gorman for driving too slow in the fast lane, but after Gorman refused to let him search the motor home he was allowed to go on his way without a citation for anything.
The trooper then arranged for an Elko County sheriff’s deputy with a drug-sniffing dog to stop Gorman again, and the dog alerted the deputy to something suspicious in the motor home, documents show. The search turned up no drugs but the $167,000 was found hidden in various places.
“No matter how this can be viewed, the two stops were for minor traffic violations and they both were extended beyond the legitimate purposes for such traffic stops,” Hicks wrote, noting that the second stop would not have happened if it were not for the first.
Hicks ruled that the government had violated Gorman’s Fourth Amendment rights because the deputies did not have “independent reasonable suspicion” to conduct the second stop.