Stephen Lara, a former US Marine, was on his way to see his children in February of this year. His journey took him from his home in Lubbock, Texas to Northern California. While driving through Nevada, a trooper pulled him over for following a tanker truck too closely. What normally would have been a routine traffic stop turned into a case of asset forfeiture that cost Lara nearly $87,000.
The officer did not find any drugs in the former Marine’s car. Nor did they charge him with a crime, according to Stars and Stripes. However, the fact that he had so much cash in the car led them to believe that he was doing something illegal. In their eyes, that amount of cash was most likely the result of selling or smuggling drugs. As a result, they called in the DEA to take the money in a process known as “adoption.”
The former Marine didn’t just have the cash in his car. He also had a stack of receipts to prove the money was his. Together, the receipts proved bank withdrawals of over $130,000 over the course of three years. About this, Lara said that he likes to have “tight documentation,” of his money. His distrust of banks led him to keep most of his savings in cash.
Usually, the former Marine keeps his cash in the Lubbock, Texas home he shares with his parents. However, he planned to look for a home closer to his children. As a result, he carried the cash with him in order to make a possible down payment on a home.
The Former Marine Has a Paper Trail for His Cash
Lara has proof of where his money came from. He provided The Washington Post with years of financial documentation. His money came from several sources including his military retirement. Lara did tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He also worked at a hospital and drew unemployment at different times over the last few years.
Additionally, the former Marine’s ex-wife said that keeping large amounts of cash is nothing new for Lara. She said that he has always liked to keep his savings in cash at his home or on his person when needed. Overall, she says, “I just don’t see this being some ordeal where he’s selling drugs or something. I just think he’s weird.”
Earlier this month, Lara filed a suit against the Nevada Highway Patrol as well as a court motion asking the DEA to return the money, which he claims was taken without probable cause. However, there is currently no word on how those filings are going.
About the ordeal, the former Marine said, “You can’t just take people’s stuff because you happen to find them with cash. We still live in a country where people are innocent until they’re proven guilty.”
Watch the bodycam video of the stop below.