Viet immigrant businessman says Oklahoma police 'illegally' confiscated over $130,000 of his money

While on their way to buy a plot of farmland, Nang Thai and Weichuan Liu say Oklahoma police "illegally" confiscated the over $130,000 in cash they were carrying after pulling them over on Interstate 40.

What happened: The two New Mexico businessmen were driving along Interstate 40 at 2 a.m. on April 19 when Oklahoma police pulled them over, searched them and their vehicle and confiscated their money, according to NBC News.

  • Nang Thai, a 51-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, and his business partner Weichuan Liu were on their way to buy a 10-acre plot of farmland when they were pulled over on Interstate 40.

  • “We didn’t understand why he pulled us over,” Thai said. “I was driving under the speed limit.”

  • A Canadian County Sheriff’s deputy peered into their vehicle, asked for the men’s licenses and questioned them about where they were going and if they were carrying any money.

  • The men had over $130,000 in cash with them, which Thai said they were saving up for years and were planning to use to buy the farmland.

  • The deputy said he suspected the two men were involved in illegal activity, and once a second deputy arrived, Thai and Liu were driven to the police station where they were interrogated for hours.

  • Deputies emptied a backpack and suitcase full of cash and searched the car but did not find guns, drugs or any other illicit items.

  • “They kept saying, ‘This is illegal money,’” Thai said. “I said, ‘Okay, prove it. We didn't do anything illegal.’”

  • The two men were released without being charged or even issued a traffic ticket, but the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office did not return their cash.

Theft: According to NBC News, what happened to Thai and Liu is a controversial law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture, “in which police can confiscate a person’s cash or other property even without bringing criminal charges.”

  • District Attorney Michael Fields filed court papers that claim the money was seized because it was intended to be used to violate drug laws or resulted from illegal drug transactions.

  • “Now I have to prove I’m innocent, and they are the ones who illegally took my money and basically stole some of my money, too,” said Thai.

  • Thai and Liu are now fighting to get the money back. They contend that the amount the sheriff’s office says it confiscated – $131,500 – is actually $10,000 short of the total they had in their car that day.

  • NBC News spoke to the seller of the land that Thai and Liu wanted to buy. He said he had met with them a few days earlier and had drawn up a contract to sell the property to Thai for $100,000.

  • “I was shocked when I heard of the confiscation of their money,” the seller told NBC News.

  • In 2017, Liu was convicted of growing marijuana in California.

According to an NBC News review of court records, local law enforcement agencies confiscated more than $1.3 million from people driving through Canadian County. At least 58% of the 31 cash seizures involved minorities only – with Asian people making up 23%, Black 19% and Hispanic 16%. White people accounted for 26% of the forfeitures in Canadian County, which is more than 75% white. Only 14 out of the 31 cash forfeitures resulted in criminal charges, or 45%, court records show.

Featured Image via KFOR Oklahoma's News 4

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