Suspected $10K drug money can't be returned to man, judge rules
A man from North Bay, Ont., cannot reclaim $10,000 in suspected drug money that police seized after they found it in several wads stuffed in his pockets, a judge has ruled.
Jason Paquette at various times told police the source of the money was none of their business, that it was to buy a car and that it was his savings, and explained he didn't keep it in the bank because he didn't want any of it taken for child support, the Ontario Superior Court judge wrote in his ruling.
"I am not persuaded by Paquette's explanation as to why he kept the money on his person," Judge M. Gregory Ellies wrote.
"There are many safer places to keep $10,000 in cash other than in your pants."
A police officer spotted Paquette and his girlfriend in a heated argument in downtown North Bay close to midnight on Sept. 10, 2012. When the officer approached and asked if everything was all right, Paquette swore, took his dog's leash off and swung it over his head, saying "Come get some," according to Ellies' decision earlier this month.
Paquette was arrested and later charged with public intoxication. When he was searched police found $10,000 in five bundles held together with elastic bands, the judge wrote.
The police seized the money and the Crown went to court for a forfeiture order, arguing it was either the proceeds of unlawful activity, an instrument of unlawful activity, or both.
There was no direct evidence that the money came from a drug transaction or was going to be used for one.
But the judge wrote that he was satisfied from the Crown's circumstantial evidence — including Paquette's two previous drug possession convictions and his failure to "adequately explain the source and purpose of the funds" — that the money was either to be used in a crime or was the proceeds of a crime.
The judge said he couldn't accept Paquette's evidence that the $10,000 cash was his savings. His tax returns showed that in the previous four years he earned between $10,000 and $26,000.
"It is unusual, if not highly unusual, for someone to be carrying $10,000 in cash in his pant pockets in downtown North Bay late at night," Ellies wrote.
"The presence of such a significant amount of money, found late at night on Paquette's person after he had been in a bar in downtown North Bay, bundled the way it was, is strong circumstantial evidence from which an inference can be made that the money in question is proceeds of drug trafficking, an instrument of drug trafficking, or both."