Federal authorities have filed a lawsuit seeking to recover nearly $ 50,000 in alleged drug money from the father of a professional Kentucky basketball player.
Officers seized money from Antonio Russell of Louisville in March as he prepared to board a flight from Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport to Los Angeles.
Russell is the father of D’Angelo Russell, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015 and played for several National Basketball Association teams.
Nicholas Nimeskern, a United States Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer, said in an affidavit that he and other police officers went to the airport on March 12 after learning that Antonio Russell was traveling on a “suspicious” route.
One of the reasons was that he had bought the ticket the day before.
Drug traffickers and couriers often don’t plan their trip well in advance because they get late-breaking transaction information, Nimeskern said.
Nimeskern said he and other officers stopped Russell at the departure gate and gave them permission to look in his Gucci backpack.
There was a total of $ 49,327 in two wads of cash in the backpack, under four empty codeine bottles, Nimeskern said.
Russell, 46, said he plans to use the money to buy a car. He had no information on his cell phone about the car, but said people in Los Angeles could help him find the car when it arrived, Nimeskern said.
Russell told officers he has a business helping NBA players secure sponsorship deals with companies such as Nike.
However, when Nimeskern asked Russell to name a few players he was working with, he didn’t. Russell was evasive and tried to change the subject, “giving the impression that he wasn’t telling the truth,” Nimeskern said in the affidavit.
Russell showed agents a bank account on his phone with a balance of nearly $ 500,000, but couldn’t explain why he didn’t list deposits if it was his business account, Nimesksern said .
Officers later learned that Russell’s son played in the NBA and believed Russell may have shown them his son’s account, according to the affidavit.
Russell allowed officers to look at three cell phones he had. It appeared that the messages and pictures had been removed from the threads, and Russell was not allowing officers to look at a fourth phone he owned, leading officers to believe it contained prosecution evidence .
The drug officers took the money and the phones. The seizure was justified for several reasons, Nimeskern said, including Russell’s travel plans, his vague explanations of the source of the money, his deleted messages, previous drug arrests and links to ongoing investigations.
The affidavit says Russell is associated with heroin and methamphetamine trafficking in Kentucky and Indiana, but provided no details.
Russell filed a claim with the DEA to recover the money.
This week, however, Deputy US Attorney Rajbir Datta filed a civil suit to confiscate the money from the government.
The complaint alleges that the money “was provided or intended to be provided in exchange for controlled substances, was the proceeds of such an exchange, or was intended to be used to facilitate the illegal sale of narcotics.”
The law allows authorities to seize money and other property that they believe is associated with illegal activities. It does not require the laying of criminal charges against a person; the complaint is against the property, not against the one who had it.
There has been controversy surrounding civil confiscation, with police claiming it helps fight drug trafficking and organized crime, and critics claiming it violates peoples’ rights and distorts the priorities of law enforcement agencies. order.
There are no criminal charges against Russell in connection with the treasury agents who were taken from him.
Russell did not respond to the complaint and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.