Sheriff's Deputy With History Of Misconduct Attempts To Extort $50,000 From Pulled Over Motorist

from the sold-out-by-his-own-dash-cam dept

Even when law enforcement officers know a camera is watching, some still choose to abuse their power. This isn’t good news, especially as more law enforcement agencies are choosing to outfit their officers with cameras and mics (and allowing those officers to tamper, disable or break the equipment without consequence). The technology does have the potential to nudge both cops and citizens into more mutually respectful interactions, but this is being circumvented by officers who like cameras aimed at the public, but not so much at themselves.

In this case, lawyers were able to get ahold of dashcam footage revealing misconduct by a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy. This misconduct involved the abuse of asset forfeiture laws — laws many law enforcement agencies seem to feel gives them permission to seize anything for any reason.

One deputy in particular is being singled out for his practice of pressuring travelers to abandon their money or face losing their cars as well. The I-Team has obtained exclusive dash-cam video from one of these drug interdiction stops. While no drugs were found, that didn’t stop the deputy from grabbing the cash.

“How much money you got?” Humboldt County Deputy Lee Dove can be heard asking on the video.

The dash-cam video gives insight into what some say is a pattern of questionable drug interdiction stops by Deputy Dove along I-80 near Winnemucca in northern Nevada.

The out-of-state motorist was stopped for doing 78 mph in an 75 mph zone. Deputy Dove finds $50,000 cash and $10,000 in cashiers checks during a search of the car.

The driver, Tan Nguyen, maintained that he won the money in Las Vegas. Whether or not he did was something the deputy could have made an effort to ascertain, but instead he chose to go down the extortion route.

Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m gonna search that vehicle first, ok?”

Nguyen: “Hey, what’s the reason you’re searching my car?”

Deputy Dove: “Because I’m talking to you … well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you. I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that (pointing to money). If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”

Nguyen: (inaudible) got it in Vegas.”

Deputy Dove: “Good luck proving it. Good luck proving it. You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”

But Deputy Dove never put his drug dog to work (itself a very iffy practice that often relies on an officer claiming the dog “alerted” when it was, in fact, reacting to stimulus from the officer). Instead, he offered a very shady “deal.” Nguyen was free to go if he turned over the cash. If not, Dove was going to seize the car and everything in it.

Dove has refused to speak about the incident, a decision at least partially guided by an ongoing investigation. The sheriff’s department has admitted that proper procedures were not followed in a number of seizures, but that admission came after the fact. At the time of the seizure, the sheriff’s office posted a photo of Dove with the cash, promoting the fact that the money would be used to help the sheriff’s office fight crime. (This being crime located outside of the Sheriff’s Department, apparently…)

But this statement seems to be little more than soothing words. Forfeitures are being filed at record rates in Humboldt County.

Twenty forfeiture cases — more than the previous four years combined — have been filed by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office since March 14, the day the county announced settling two lawsuits over cash seizures that drew media scrutiny.

Of the 20 forfeiture cases filed since last month in Humboldt County District Court, more than four exceeded $10,000 and the majority were filed as a result of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office traffic stops, the county clerk said.

This has prompted one lawyer to consider filing a class action lawsuit. More news of Deputy Dove’s pay-to-play “policy” has also surfaced as a result of Nguyen’s case.

The class-action lawsuit, yet to be filed as of Wednesday, says Trevor Paine of Wisconsin was stopped for allegedly speeding 84 mph in a 75 mph zone in November.

According to the complaint, Humboldt County Sheriff Sgt. Lee Dove “forcibly searched” the vehicle with a police K-9 because the dog acted as if there were drugs in the car. Dove failed to find drugs, but took $11,000 in cash from a lockbox, the complaint says.

So, there’s a clear pattern of abuse, and it looks as though the Sheriff is finally being forced to confront the issue. The bill for deputy misconduct was footed by the citizens, of course, which isn’t much of a deterrent for misbehaving officers and those who employ them. And if the number of seizures being filed is any indication, there’s a good chance the public will be footing the bill again in the near future.

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Comments on “Sheriff's Deputy With History Of Misconduct Attempts To Extort $50,000 From Pulled Over Motorist”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

And unofficial crime syndicates everywhere ask themselves: 'Why didn't we think of that?!'

Commit extortion without a badge?

Do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200, go straight to jail.

Commit extortion with a badge, and on camera?

Keep the money, keep the badge, use money to defend shake-downs and wait for the heat to die down, knowing no judge or state prosecutor has the guts or integrity to actually do anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

The cop(s) need the book thrown at them…armed robbery, color of law, extortion, grand theft, etc. Personally, I’m for public execution of oath-breakers.

What the class-action suit should do is go after every jurisdiction with asset forfeiture, force them to return the stolen money with interest (go ahead and get it from the officer’s pensions) and remove the legal ability for government officials to ‘legally’ take other people’s properties again.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Tim Cushing’s police-abuse articles appear to be highly popular among Techdirt readers. It’s his passion and he covers the subject quite well. It was, of course, an issue so important to the drafters of the US Constitution that they devoted a whole section to it. And when the authorities we trust to follow the Constitution instead violate it, it’s the right, if not the duty of each of us to fight such abuse any way we can. (even for people who live outside the US, since the policies and trends set here tend to trickle down to the rest of the world) Technology has made the situation far worse than it ever was, or ever could have been.

The difference between the people who live inside prison and the people who live outside prison is gradually diminishing, and not in a positive way. Complacency and indifference will serve to accelerate that trend.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

He doesn’t write articles about the good things police do. Every day.
Which also happens to be the vast majority of interactions that occur with the hundreds of thousands of police officers that work in the United States.

Let’s not pretend Tim Cushing doesn’t have some sort of mental problem with the police. Because he quite obviously does.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

He doesn’t write articles about the good things police do. Every day.

Probably because that would be utterly pointless. When things are working correctly, then who cares, there’s nothing to worry about, and nothing to report on.

When things break down however, when the system fails, when someone in power is abusing their authority, then there’s something to report on, and it’s important to bring such breakdowns and abuses to light so that they can be known, and hopefully fixed.

Let’s not pretend Tim Cushing doesn’t have some sort of mental problem with the police that abuse their power and authority. Because he quite obviously does.

Add a few words and I’d agree with you, though that’s not saying much, as other than corrupt thugs with badges, and perhaps a politician or two who can find use for their ‘talents’, I’m not sure who wouldn’t have a problem with police abusing their positions and authority.

There’s also authoritarians I suppose, those people who believe that anyone in a position of authority is automatically right and just by virtue of their position, but those bootlickers look up to anyone with power over them, not just the cops.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re:

“And the tech connection is?…”

Well let’s have a look Mr Gumby.

1)”…exclusive dash-cam video from one…”
2)””How much money you got?” Humboldt County Deputy Lee Dove can be heard asking on the video.”
3)”The dash-cam video gives insight…”
4)”Nguyen: (inaudible) got it in Vegas.”” Here I’ll help you with this one…see that ‘(inaudible)’ part? That kind of infers that something was record onto stone tablets. No wait, maybe something..gasp tech! /playominousmusic4beatsonly

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Property isn't a person

There is the question if the search was legal, thus the 4th would apply. But now the property was seized, it is deemed guilty of a crime until it is proven innocent of that crime. So, now it becomes the effort of the innocent person to prove his property is not guilty instead of the LEO proving the property (and said person) was involved in a crime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Property isn't a person

Well, in reality, no property was seized… just some correspondence written by the US government — in the form of IOUs, and some more correspondence written by some bank — also in the form of IOUs.

If he’d actually confiscated the car etc. there’d be a case here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Property isn't a person

Hmmm… I wonder if he can invoke Citizens United and claim that his money is not property, but speech, and that his First Amendment rights are being violated.

Oh, that’s right; I forgot. Money is only speech for rich people. For everyone else it’s property.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: that was nothing more than road piracy

It would be interesting if the driver pulled his legal concealed weapon and made a citizens arrest.

That would not end well. The driver would quite possibly end up full of holes, or at best serving a long prison sentence if he “won” the confrontation. I put “won” in quotes because there is absolutely no way the officer would stand down and submit to the arrest, so the only way for the citizen to prevail would be to actually shoot the cop.

Tubal (profile) says:

Don't depend on Cops' dashcams, Make your own recordings

I use the App AutoGuard to record both video and frequent GPS pings. The video and the GPS pings are useful to counter assertions of possible (likely) lies cops state for stopping a car in the first place. The video and GPS data can be used in a motion to suppress evidence that they may use based on bullshit stop.
The app routinely discards the data, which is has little value outside of any incident.
The App has an auto upload feature but the upload is to YouTube. I don’t see any value in that, and I believe the GPS data would not be included. However, I would be interested in an automatic upload to a private and secure cloud locker. Security would be very important in preventing the data being used for possible self-incrimination purposes (the GPS data would establish speed).
As an aside, people should be aware that most cars have some version of a black box recorder (to be required in the future), the data from which can be used against you.
Complying with various evidence authentication requirements would also be a feature that AutoGuard should put some thought into.
In any case, at present, the publicity value of being able to catch cops in lies probably trumps the nitty gritty legal details.
Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions (thankfully not my state) you must be wary of two-party disclosure requirements for recordings where there may be an expectation of privacy. If such laws do apply I would not recommend verbal disclosure to a cop but instead would place a sticker on my bumper or back window of the car – something like “monitored by AutoGuard” – to counter any asserted expectation of privacy.

David says:

Re: Don't depend on Cops' dashcams, Make your own recordings

“expectation of privacy” will apply when a cop takes a leak or buys a cup of coffee. It’s perhaps so-and-so when a cop is on patrol duty. As soon as he swings into interaction as a cop with a citizen, we are not talking about anything protected by privacy from getting entered into evidence.

Htos1 (profile) says:

Standards/sauce for the goose

Those with access to the buttons,levers, and software of law making MUST be held to much higher accountability threshold than you or me. I favor a punishment of 25-life for even a minor, 1st offense, even “fixing” a ticket for buddies/families.
Oh, and asset forfeiture of homes, possessions, bank accounts, and the loss of being able to work in/around/for gov’t agencies for life.This should quickly weed out the wankers, psychopaths, and crooklyns.

sorrykb (profile) says:


Applying the authorities’ logic to this:
1. This deputy’s actions seem criminal.
2. This deputy is part of a larger operation.
… so, obviously,
3. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department is a criminal enterprise.
… which of course means
4. Their assets are the proceeds of a criminal enterprise.
… and so we can logically conclude
5. We can take all the Sheriff Department’s money!

(That’s how it works, right?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Armed robbery plain and simple. The media is hesitant to report it, but citizens are already starting to fight back against police all over the country. It’s obvious that police (and anyone with a badge for that matter) are being encouraged to behave this way on a national level, so the question is why? Whatever the reason, too many police are enjoying being criminals themselves. When the straw finally does break, that shiny badge that protects them will quickly become a nice target. The Bundy incident shows what a few citizen snipers and others that refuse to accept corrupted “authority” can accomplish. Albuquerque is another one to watch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I assume by “citizen snipers” you mean “men who confront cops by hiding behind their women”.”

No, like this guy, Eric Parker, a Bundy supporter who famously aimed his rifle at Federal (paramilitary) agents from between the cracks of concrete road partitions. It’s people like him who may have made the feds think twice before shooting the protesters they were aiming their guns at for hours.

Having a wonderful time... Send money! says:

Life in a crooked society

Laws that allow the seizure of assets are nothing more than an invitation for abuse and should be regarded as criminal under color of authority.

Unfortunately, the deck is stacked, or the courts, against basic elements of constitutional guarantees explicitly designed to prevent abuse of authority.

So, what is to be done, when looking at the barrel of a gun, that is pointed at you?

No fun in the sun, son.

Not today.

scotts13 (profile) says:

We need an organization to enforce the law...

Perhaps collect a little money from every citizen, to hire armed agents to protect our interests, and make sure our property isn’t stolen from us by OTHER armed individuals. The could patrol in cars, on the lookout from wrongdoing.

I vaguely remember it having been tried at one point. Whatever happened to that experiment?

Rekrul says:

This story seems to imply that this cop was just “one bad apple” doing this and seizing money from people. The truth is that this is going on in many areas, carried out by many cops. Ever since the government cleared the way for property to be seized without a conviction or even charges being filed, local police departments have viewed it as an easy way to supplement their budgets.

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