MAHWAH, N.J. -- A Mahwah police officer making a routine traffic stop found a shopping bag in the trunk packed with nearly $35,000 in suspected drug money, along with several hundred foil zip-locking bags used to package synthetic marijuana, authorities said Wednesday.
The driver and passenger of the borrowed car gave “inconsistent and conflicting stories of their travel plans” after Officer Tyler Boucher stopped their four-door, 2005 Toyota for careless driving and several equipment violations on southbound Route 287 just before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Police Chief James N. Batelli told Daily Voice.
During the conversation, Boucher “detected the odor of burnt marijuana,” Batelli said.
A search “based upon the totality of circumstances” turned up a small amount of marijuana in the cabin, the chief said.
After receiving consent to search the rest of the vehicle, he found the cash in a plastic shopping bag “packaged in a manner consistent with narcotic distribution,” Batelli said.
Both the driver, Ricardo Ramos Torres, 23, and his passenger, 21-year-old Jose Ford, “denied ownership or even knowledge of the currency in the vehicle,” the chief said.
The officer also found a large glass bong and the foil bags, which are commonly used to package K2, or Spice, for sale, he added.
Police seized the cash for civil forfeiture and arrested
Torres and Ford on charges of transporting property derived from criminal activity and possession of drug paraphernalia and pot.
Torres also received three traffic summonses, the chief added.
They were released pending a June 9 court date, he said.
Sgt. Michael Blondin and Detective Gerald Falotico assisted in what Batelli said is an ongoing investigation. The chief praised Boucher for “excellent observations” that led to the arrests and seizure.