WINNEMUCCA, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- A new lawsuit has been filed regarding possible illegal seizures by Humboldt County sheriffs.
In February, News 4 investigated a claim
by Tan Nguyen of California, saying that Humboldt County Sheriff Lee Dove seized $50,000 during a routine traffic stop, despite not being arrested or charged with a crime.
Humboldt County settled with Nguyen and one other man
last month. Within one week of that settlement, more than 20 other forfeiture cases were filed by Humboldt County, reviewing instances where people who were subject to alleged illegal searches while traveling along Interstate 80 through Winnemucca.
"Interestingly enough, they were stopped by in Utah by Utah troopers who searched the car, and didn't find any drugs, didn't charge them with anything and let them go," said John Ohlsen. "Five hours later, they were stopped in Winnemucca, and they took their money."
Criminal Defense Attorney John Ohlsen is describing what happened to his client, a young man enroute from Madison, Wisconsin, who was pulled over for speeding as he headed west through Winnemucca on Interstate 80. His car was searched, and a large sum of money was found. That money was then taken by the officer, and the young man was sent on his way.
"What they're doing is profiling. They think they're stopping people who are on their way to California to buy drugs, and then bring them back to the Midwest or the Eastern states, and then sell them," said Ohlson.
Ohlson confirmed to News 4 that a class action lawsuit has been sent to Humboldt County on behalf of at least 20 of these individuals. Most individuals are young men, with out-of-state license plates, who were pulled over while driving through Winnemucca.
Since our story about this apparently-common practice aired back in February, Humboldt County, the Sheriff's Department, and numerous alleged victims have taken notice.
"He would not have known to do that without Channel 4," said Ohlson. "As a matter of fact, what Channel 4 did was to blow the top off of this thing. After that, there were a lot of people who contacted us, and they'll probably be a bunch more."
In the majority of these instances, none of the individuals pulled over were arrested. In fact, most of them were not even cited for speeding. However with all of them, members of law enforcement took their money, saying that they were passing through Winnemucca with the intent of buying or selling drugs.
"I think that's what behind all this is that someone there figured out, 'Well, if we stop enough of them, we're going to find some people with a bunch of cash who are there to do it and we're going to take their money and we're going to put a dent in the drug traffic. And also we'll help the county out a little bit.'"
Ohlson said that had it not been for our original story, many of those who were stopped, had their vehicles searched and their money taken, may have never known that other people had experienced this exact same thing.
While Ohlson waits for a response from Humboldt County and a federal court judge on the merit of the class action suit, the District Attorney in Winnemucca who was supervising the investigation has filed to run for judge.
News 4 has contacted many of the defendants listed in the class action complaint, but they have not heard returned our calls.