FORT MYERS, Fla.- The federal government forfeited $304,050 that was found hidden within the tires of a salvaged G-35 Infiniti that was being transported on I-75. The currency, mostly $20 bills, was bundled inside the tires, in heat-sealed packaging.
The Infiniti, which was also equipped with a hidden after-market GPS transponder, allowing it to be remotely monitored, had been loaded onto a car-hauler in New Jersey. The car was scheduled to be delivered to an address in Miami, which Homeland Security Investigations special agents later determined to be non-existent.
The United States commenced a civil forfeiture action against the property, alleging that it was the proceeds of drug trafficking. An individual (Johnny A. Melo) came forward to contest the forfeiture, asserting that the seized money was the proceeds of his Miami-based business, "Images Windows and Doors," not drug proceeds. Following his conviction in the Southern District of Florida for a federal narcotics offense, aggravated identity theft and related criminal offenses, he abruptly abandoned his claim.