Yellowstone National Park traffic stop nets $20,000 for feds

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A routine traffic stop in Yellowstone National Park turned into a windfall for the federal government.

Last week, a judge ruled that the government can keep more than $20,337 in cash that a Yellowstone ranger seized from two Illinois men in July.

As for what will happen to that money, “it should go to the Department of the Treasury general fund and from there be used as the government deems needed or necessary,” said Mark Trimble, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office had argued in a civil complaint that the money should be forfeited to the government. In part, they said the funds were “intended to be used in exchange for a controlled substance.” One of the men reportedly told law enforcement they had planned to use the cash to buy marijuana in Oregon, then return to Illinois and sell it.

In the first part of September, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent notices to the two men — Jacob C A Dotson and Dustin Alvis — that the government intended to keep the money found in their vehicle. Neither of the 20-year-olds filed a claim for the cash over the past month. On Oct. 25, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carmon of Mammoth Hot Springs issued a default judgment and order of forfeiture, allowing the government to keep the $20,337.

Yellowstone Ranger Brad Jones originally stopped Dotson and Alvis’ Pontiac for speeding, about 14 miles west of the park’s Northeast Gate, but he began a search after smelling marijuana. Jones found marijuana and paraphernalia in the vehicle and rangers later found more marijuana, LSD, hashish and other illegal materials at the men’s campsite at the Madison Campground.

Dotson and Alvis each spent a few days in jail, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug offenses and were ordered to pay $1,025 and to serve five years of unsupervised probation. While on probation, they cannot set foot in Yellowstone.

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