A state trooper found $727,000 in cash in a 60-year-old man’s vehicle in Madison County, and prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the cash.
The driver will willingly give up the money, according to his attorney, because he has received a plea deal that allows him to avoid jail or prison time on felony money-laundering charges.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, in a forfeiture proceeding filed last week, argues that the cash is probably associated with money laundering. In addition, police say the money is probably associated with drugs, because a drug-sniffing dog “indicated” the presence of drugs in the vehicle. No drugs were found in the vehicle, however – only the cash.
The trooper pulled over the driver on April 4 on Interstate 70, near Marine, for allegedly making an improper pass. ISP Special Agent Tyson Wagner wrote in an affidavit that the trooper who pulled over the driver “noted the driver’s nervous behavior, stated travel itinerary and prior criminal history as reason to deploy his K9 for an open-air sniff of the vehicle. K9 ‘Riggs’ indicated the presence of narcotics on the 2014 Ford Flex.”
The dog didn’t find any drugs, but troopers found $727,330 in vacuum-sealed packages in a hidden compartment in the spare tire area of the vehicle, according to Wagner.
Wagner wrote: “Based on my training and experience I know drug couriers will conceal large amounts of currency to avoid reporting requirements to the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service.”
The driver, Kenneth Ottrix of Las Vegas, was later interviewed by investigators and declined to provide a statement, according to Wagner. Madison County prosecutors charged him with two felony counts of money laundering. On Thursday, Ottrix entered a plea agreement that calls for him to serve two years of probation, according to his attorney, Jessica Koester. The plea deal also calls for him not to challenge the forfeiture of the cash.
“He will not be contesting the forfeiture. That was part of the agreement,” Koester told the Record on Monday. She declined to comment further on that issue.
For forfeitures filed in circuit courts in Illinois, the proceeds are distributed as follows: 65 percent to the arresting agency, 10 percent to Illinois State Police, 12.5 percent to the county prosecutor’s office and 12.5 percent to the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor.
Gibbons said the money will help local authorities’ fight against drugs.
"This case represents a drop in the bucket of a river of illegal narcotics and illegal proceeds flowing straight through our county every day of the year. The Mexican drug cartels pour tons and tons of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine into our country and reap the illegal proceeds in large amounts, just like this one,” Gibbons said. “We need more resources to fight against the massive current of the drug trade, and these funds will be put to good use to help arm us for that ongoing battle.”
Ottrix has a long criminal history that dates back to the 1980s, with prosecutions for drug-trafficking, auto theft, assault, attempted robbery and gun-related charges.