Baton Rouge police say a Miami man’s nervous behavior — heavy breathing and a heart beating so hard an officer claimed he could see it throbbing through the man’s shirt — led to the discovery of more than $72,000 cash during a December traffic stop.
On Wednesday, authorities booked the driver, Charles Jackson, 34, into Parish Prison on one count of transporting drug proceeds, a felony.
According to an arrest warrant issued Jan. 19, a Baton Rouge police narcotics officer stopped Jackson as he drove a rented Ford Focus through Baton Rouge.
The officer wrote that Jackson initially told him that he’d just dropped off a cousin in Baton Rouge and was on his way back to Miami.
But Jackson appeared visibly nervous, the report says, and the officer noticed a “strong odor of raw marijuana coming from inside the vehicle” after Jackson opened the passenger door to retrieve the rental agreement for the vehicle.
When asked about the smell, Jackson said he didn’t know what the officer was talking about — but the officer noted he “could see (Jackson’s) heartbeat through his shirt,” the report says.
A search of the vehicle turned up three vacuum-packed bundles of cash — totaling $72,100 — in the trunk, the report says.
After police took the vehicle to a federal Drug Enforcement Agency office, a drug-sniffing dog “alerted to the presence of a narcotics odor on the vehicle,” the report says. The report makes no mention of any drugs being found in the car.
By then, the report says, Jackson had changed his story, telling officers at the DEA office where he had been taken that he was returning to Miami from Texas where he’d attempted to buy an 18-wheeler.
Baton Rouge police seized the $72,100 and are in the process of filing for forfeiture, said Sgt. Don Coppola, a police spokesman.
Coppola said officers investigated Jackson’s stories of why he was in Baton Rouge and determined they were false. The investigation delayed Jackson’s arrest, Coppola said.
Jackson returned to Baton Rouge from Florida Wednesday and surrendered to police. He remained in Parish Prison Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bail.