DEA probes bundle of cash

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Staff reports

PATRICK — Federal drug agents joined the investigation after a Chesterfield County deputy made a traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of a large amount of cash from the back of a work van.

Deputy Don Hughes was clocking cars for speeding at S.C. 102 and U.S. 1 on Oct. 30 at 9:35 a.m. when a 1996 Ford work van drove by going 55 mph in a 45 mph zone. Hughes took after it and made a traffic stop.

The driver, Jose E. Castellon, 47, of Elizabethtown, N.C., handed the deputy an N.C. drivers license, an N.C. ID and an expired work card. A records check showed that he was driving under suspension, and Hughes arrested him for that violation.

Hughes thought it was unusual that there was nothing in the back of the van but a small table and a spare tire. Searching the vehicle, Hughes saw something blue under the spare tire. He lifted the tire up to find a blue plastic bag filled with bundles of cash. He immediately stopped the search, he said, “associating large amounts of cash with weapons, drugs and violence.” He detained the passenger, Jubentino Luna, 30, of White Lake, N.C., and called for backup.

A K9 officer brought a drug-sniffing dog and narcotics officer Lt. Chris Page also joined the investigation. The deputies found a folder under a seat cover on the passenger side containing $3,000 cash. The bundled cash from the rear of the van was turned over to a DEA agent who arrived from Florence to help with the investigation. Sheriff’s Department officials said they did not have the total amount. The money was turned over to the DEA.

Castellon and Luna both denied that the money was theirs and said they knew nothing about it. Castellon was charged with speeding and driving under suspension. Luna voluntarily went to the Chesterfield County sheriff’s office to be fingerprinted and then was let go.