Whitfield County investigators found over $2.2 million in drug money stashed in a mattress and two air compressors, Sheriff Scott Chitwood said.
He said this week a public information officer for the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement informed the Sheriff’s Office "that a large amount of currency that had previously been seized by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office (Narcotics Unit) had completed the federal forfeiture process and our percentage of the currency had been transferred to the Commissioner’s Office.
"The investigation which led to this money seizure begin during the summer of 2011, when the Sheriff’s Office received information involving a Mexican drug Cartel that had Dalton connections was moving large amounts of U.S. currency through the southeastern parts of the United States into Mexico. The currency had been obtained from the sale of illegal narcotics. The Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation and begin attempting to track the money as it was being concealed and transported to the Mexican border.
"During the investigation we requested and received assistance from the Calhoun Police
Department, the Georgia State Patrol, the Sandy Springs Police Department, and ICE. On Sept. 16, 2011, our investigators determined a large shipment of currency going back to Mexico was currently stationary in Sandy Springs, Ga. Our Narcotics Unit traveled to Sandy Springs and conducted surveillance on the suspects believed to be involved with the transportation of the currency. A couple of large ”U Haul” boxes were observed being loaded onto a privately owned “Grey Hound” type bus. The Sandy Springs Police Department was contacted and responded to assist our officers. The bus was detained and searched. A Hispanic female with the name of Surizaday Cienfuegos from Cedartown, Ga., claimed to be responsible for transporting the two boxes.
An air mattress and two 20-gallon air compressors were discovered. Upon searching inside the air mattress a large amount of currency was discovered. Ms. Cienfuegos admitted she had been paid $5,000 to transport the boxes from the U.S. to Mexico, and she believed the compressors contained cash. The two 20-gallon air compressors were seized and brought back to Dalton. The Dalton Fire Department was contacted and assisted opening the air compressors, using the “jaws of life” and a chisel. Both air compressors were stuffed with large amounts of cash. The total amount of US currency found in the mattress and two compressors totaled $ 2,223,294.00.
"The seized currency was turned over to US Immigration & Customs Enforcement at the time in order to start the forfeiture process in the Federal Court System. The forfeiture process has been completed and after the assisting agencies received a share of the funds, the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office share of the proceeds amounted to $ 821,000. Georgia Code 16-13-49 specifies money forfeited must be used for any official law enforcement purpose. The investigation of this case is still on going by different agencies."