Will the 16-year-old Rosemount boy who found nearly $18,000 in a ditch — then handed most of it out to friends and a bus aide — get to keep any of the money?
Some think it’s finders keepers, and the kid should keep the dough.
But it’s not that easy under state law, and it certainly won’t happen for a while, according to law enforcement officials.
That’s because the money is now part of the criminal investigation in a marijuana-growing case. And after that’s finished, there will be a forfeiture case in which a judge will have to determine if that money, and any other money or property confiscated in the case, is the fruit of an illegal enterprise.
But eventually, there’s a chance it could be considered abandoned property, in which case the boy, who is apparently quite generous, could get a crack at it.
The boy — who is called in news reports “a good kid with learning disabilities” — was handing out $100 bills to students when officials asked him where he’d got the money. After first saying it was from his allowance, he then said he’d found it in a ditch. He showed an investigator the spot near Pilot Knob Road and 195th Street in Farmington, where he had found about $17,000 to $18,000 in cash in a Cub Foods bag.
Nearby, police found scales and 4 pounds of marijuana.
Police say it all came from John Jordan of Farmington. Apparently, police were following his car after deducing he was growing pot. they lost sight of him for a while, which is when he allegedly threw the money and pot out the car window.
Police found 200 marijuana plants at Jordan’s house, plus several gallon bags of marijuana and two digital scales.
So while the wheels of justice slowly grind on this one, will the boy get any money?
WCCO-TV’s Don Shelby fueled the debate last week, saying on the air:
“Some newsroom friends came up with a good idea for me, a fair idea, I think: When the police are done charging whoever sold the drugs, they should give the money back to the kid who found it and let him give it away to people who need it, just like he was doing.”
But it’s complicated, said Dakota County’s Chief Deputy Sheriff Dave Bellows.
“We’re trying to get people to understand that this was not happenstance: The money is tied to a sizable marijuana-growing operation. It’s proceeds from drug activity,” he said. “If [Jordan] had not had the opportunity to dump it when being followed, the money likely would have been discovered in the car and seized.”
The money is an important part of the investigation and criminal case against Jordan, he said. Then after that trial, the money will be subject to forfeiture in a separate civil court case.
Under state law:
“Money or proceeds from the sale of forfeited property, after payment of seizure, storage, forfeiture, and sale expenses, and satisfaction of valid liens against the property, must be distributed as follows:
(1) 70 percent of the money or proceeds must be forwarded to the appropriate agency for deposit as a supplement to the agency’s operating fund or similar fund for use in law enforcement;
(2) 20 percent of the money or proceeds must be forwarded to the county attorney or other prosecuting agency that handled the forfeiture for deposit as a supplement to its operating fund or similar fund for prosecutorial purposes; and
(3) the remaining ten percent of the money or proceeds must be forwarded within 60 days after resolution of the forfeiture to the state treasury and credited to the general fund. Any local police relief association organized under chapter 423 which received or was entitled to receive the proceeds of any sale made under this section before the effective date of Laws 1988, chapter 665, sections 1 to 17, shall continue to receive and retain the proceeds of these sales.”
So the arresting agencies have a stake.
“I think there’s been some misunderstanding,” Bellows said. “Don Shelby says, “Give it to the kid,’ but that’s not doing justice to the efforts of law enforcement. We’re just doing our job. We’re not the bad guy here,” he said.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher agreed that the found money is now a part of the criminal case, and will then be subject to forfeiture in a civil court matter.
“After that, though, it could fall under the abandoned property doctrine, and the young man could potentially have a claim.” Fletcher said.
And the investigating agency always has the option to offer some kind of reward, he said.
“Let’s hope this resolves itself in a fashion that the Shelby doctrine prevails,” Fletcher said.
Joe Kimball reports on St. Paul City Hall, Ramsey County politics and other topics. He can be reached at jkimball [at] minnpost [dot] com.