Judge Orders Feds Return Stripper's $1M Life Savings

There wasn't enough evidence that the cash seized in a traffic stop was connected to drugs, federal judge rules

An exotic dancer from Southern California will get back her more than $1 million in life savings that a Nebraska state trooper seized during a traffic stop last year, after a federal judge said authorities failed to prove the money was connected to drug activity.

Friends of Tara Mishra, 33, of Rancho Cucamonga, were traveling across country on March 3, 2012 as part of a business deal that fell through for a nightclub in New Jersey when they were stopped by a state trooper for speeding on Interstate 80 in North Platte, Nebraska, court documents said.

The trooper seized the more than $1 million in cash, which was bundled in bags in $10,000 increments, after a consensual search of the car.

Nebraska state troopers turned over the money to the federal government for a federal civil forfeiture action. Mishra hired an attorney who filed claim to get the money back. A judge ruled in her favor on July 18.

"We’re very happy,” said Roger Diamond, Mishra's Santa Monica attorney. “We won the case. People said we wouldn’t be able to do it."

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bataillon wrote in his judgment that "the government left too many unanswered questions."

"There is no nexus between the currency and any illegal activity," he wrote.

As an exotic dancer for years, Mishra had saved the money in bank safe deposit boxes with the hope of one day buying a business so she could quit her job as a stripper, court documents said.

Mishra, an ex-con who served prison time for felony transporting controlled substances in 2003, testified in court that she had her friends drive the money across country because she didn’t want to risk driving herself and getting robbed.

The U.S. government has 60 days from the date of the judgment to file an appeal, said John Higgins, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Drug Enforcement Unit in Nebraska. 

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