Fairview police seized $18,322 from a Washington Heights driver who claimed to have gotten the cash from a "guy on the street" for whom he was supposed to buy a vehicle, authorities said.
The only problem: Luis A. Tavarez, 28, couldn't provide a name, phone number, receipt, text threads or any other information to corroborate his story, Capt. Michael Martic said.
Tavarez was headed south on Bergen Boulevard when Officer Sebastian Castano stopped his Mercedes SUV -- with a Pennsylvania license plate -- near the North Bergen border around 1 a.m. Tuesday, March 7.
He told the officer he was returning from the Bronx, then reached into a backpack to retrieve his driver's license -- at which point Castano spotted the cash bundled and rubber-banded by denomination in plain view, Martic said.
A consented search turned up two more stacks inside Tavarez's jacket, he said.
Tavarez told the officer that he's self-employed buying and selling vehicles and that he'd "received all the money from a guy on the street in the Bronx and was going to purchase a vehicle for him," the captain said.
Then the story began to fall apart, he said.
Tavarez was charged with money laundering and criminal usury before being released pending a court hearing.
He has to contest the seizure in court if he wants to try and get the money back. Otherwise it goes toward law enforcement purposes.
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