Stripper’s Million Dollars Confiscated Cash Must Be Returned, Judge Rules

COMMENTARY | A stripper’s million dollars in cash that was confiscated during a March 2012 traffic stop in Nebraska must be returned. That’s the ruling from federal US District Judge Joseph Bataillon, who wrote Thursday that the money belonged to California former stripper Tara Mishra and must be returned with interest.

According to a Journal Star report, the Nebraska State Patrol seized the money which was in the trunk of a Mercedes SUV being driven by Rajesh Dheri when he was stopped for speeding. He took the ticket and gave consent to the troopers to search the vehicle — which is when they found the cash from Tara Mishra stuffed in Ziploc bags along with dryer sheets.

That’s a technique widely believed to help filter out the smell of drugs on the money. So you know? The one million dollars in cash was confiscated.

So far, so standard for Tara Mishra. You can’t give a speeding idiot a million dollars in cash, set him loose to drive a Mercedes SUV from California to New Jersey, and not expect problems.

But the ex-stripper wanted her million dollars back.

According to an ABC report, Tara Mishra argued that she’d started stripping at age 18 and worked for 15 years saving a dollar at a time. She then gave the money to the Dheris to drive across country from California so that they could buy a nightclub in New Jersey.

Oh, and apparently she put the dryer sheets in with the money because it smelled like an ash tray.

According to ABC, Judge Bataillon wrote:

“The court finds the Mishras’ story is credible. Ms. Mishra did have control over the money and directed the Dheris to deliver the money to New Jersey for the purchase of the business.”

Wow. I don’t want to say that Bataillon is an idiot but if he finds that story credible, I’ve got a nice bridge for sale.

Jeez Louise.

I don’t believe a stripper keeps hundreds of thousands and then a million dollars in cash without going totally degen and blowing it all — or getting ripped off by another stripper. It just doesn’t happen. The lifestyle is what it is.

Also, how is it credible that she strips for ones and fives for 15 years and yet it’s somehow the same money in the Mercedes, which was reportedly mostly hundreds?

Bataillon said he was unable to find any evidence of a crime. What about the money-laundering act of 1986? You’re not allowed to just hand someone over $10,000 in cash without filing federal paperwork.

Is there any evidence whatsoever that Tara Mishra did so? C’mon. If she was going to file the appropriate Currency Transaction Reports, she would have just used a bank and written a check to the Dheris. She would not have taken the chance of having them drive the cash across the country in the first place.

If it sounds like I have a problem with this, I do.

I used to be in a cash business, and we spent a great deal of time and headaches trying to comply with the money-laundering regulations — regulations that now appear to have a previously unsuspected exemption for strippers.

We actually had a reason that we were forced to use cash. Our business was a blackjack team. If we wrote checks and revealed our true identities, then we wouldn’t be allowed to place our bets. We didn’t cart around tens of thousands of dollars in cash because it’s so much fun to make yourself a target of police and criminals alike.

I for one spent endless hours conforming with tax and money-laundering paperwork to make sure I was playing by the rules.

Yet I know several people who got their cash confiscated anyway. They either didn’t get it back or only got part of it back, even if they were guilty of no crime other than making a stupid mistake like having a broken taillight.

So there’s a fairness issue going on. Why does a stripper get a pass on the same cash reporting requirements that everyone else in America has to comply with?

I think Judge Bataillon has a lot of explaining to do. I’m not fond of troopers randomly seizing cash.

But I’m not real fond of unequal enforcement of the law either.

If you have more thoughts on the Tara Mishra case and why the judge returned the stripper’s millions, leave a comment below.

[Stripper with money is a model and does not represent Tara Mishra: photo by Peter Kim via Shutterstock]