A British monarch once famously bartered to trade his kingdom for a horse.
Now, a South Carolina man could lose close to $1 million in cash for want of a $1 license-plate bulb.
According to a federal filing this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte is claiming dibs on $935,754 that Monroe police say they found on May 16 in the backseat of Seneca Moore’s white Ford F-150 pickup.
A federal prosecutor says the stash is suspected drug money and could have ties to a notorious East Coast gang. On Friday, the feds filed a warrant to actually arrest the money. Now, it will be up to a judge to decide whether they get it for good.
Moore, 40, of Sumter, S.C., could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered the phone at his home Friday and identified herself as Moore’s wife said she would give him the message. Moore did not call back. Documents in the case do not show whether he has hired an attorney.
His million-dollar saga unfolded late at night along the main drag in Monroe.
According to the filing by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Johnson, a Monroe police sergeant pulled Moore’s truck over around 10:15 p.m. in the parking lot of a Circle K on U.S. 74 — not because Moore was speeding or had run a stop sign — but because the officer “was unable to tell if the license plate lights on the truck were working.”
What a judge makes of that probable cause remains to be seen. Suffice to say, the rest of Moore’s evening did not work any better than his light.
While the sergeant helped Moore find his license and registration, according to Johnson’s filing, an arriving officer noticed two large cardboard boxes in pickup’s back seat.
Police began an open-air drug search outside the truck — the document doesn’t say why — in which a narcotics dog named Zorro got a whiff of something during his two laps around the truck. That led to another police search — this one inside the truck.
No drugs were found. But the boxes behind the driver’s seat were teeming with vacuum-sealed bags stuffed with cash, Johnson’s filing said. More wads of currency were discovered in a plastic drawstring bag found in the console.
In his filing, Johnson says the sealed bags are a common means of transporting drug money because they hide the smell of illegal narcotics.
In Moore’s case, whatever good the bags did scent-wise was mitigated by the fact that they had been adorned with red five-point stars, a symbol tied to the Nine Trey Gangsters, a drug-dealing arm of the East Coast gang syndicate, United Blood Nation, Johnson said in his filing.
UBN cells in Charlotte and across North Carolina have been tied to more than a decade of violence and drug-related crimes in neighborhoods and prisons.
On Friday, an alleged Nine Trey associate was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a rolling 2019 shootout through downtown Durham triggered in the courthouse when rival gangs showed up for hearings at the same time.
Back in May, when the sergeant asked Moore where he got the money found in his truck, Moore said he owned a trucking company and some rental houses.
According to Johnson, however, a check of Johnson’s tax returns over a number of years showed that his businesses either lost money or barely broke even.
“Assuming the truthfulness of Moore’s tax returns and with no information known to the government (showing) that Moore’s businesses experienced a sea change of profitability in the first half of 2020 … the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that the currency (in the truck) was not derived from a legitimate source,” the prosecutor wrote.
Up to now, Moore has not been charged with any crimes tied to the traffic stop. However, he was sentenced to 90 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to trafficking in cocaine.
After his release, Moore was convicted of a violation of his probation in 2014 stemming from another traffic stop. This one took place in Texas. This time, police found almost $31,000 in cash in the toolbox of Moore’s pickup.
Moore later confessed that he was on his way from South Carolina to Houston, according to the filing, to buy an unknown amount of marijuana, at $400 a pound, from a man he had met in prison.