Colorado Man Forfeits $234,717 To Feds In Cody-Based Civil Forfeiture Case
An Englewood, Colo., man has agreed to forfeit $234,717 in cash to the United States to settle a civil forfeiture action involving an airplane and money from alleged drug deals, according to a news release from the Wyoming U.S. Attorney Christopher "Kip" Crofts.
As part of the settlement, Scott Lewis did not dispute that the United States had reasonable cause to seize the money, according to the judgment entered by U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson on Nov. 28.
The United States also agreed to return $25,000 to Lewis.
The case began Feb. 28, 2014, when the money and a Cessna airplane were seized from Lewis and Gilbert Wiles, Jr., at the Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody.
The seizures resulted from an investigation of suspected drug trafficking by the Cody Police Department, the Powell Police Department and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also investigated.
The federal government filed a civil forfeiture complaint on Aug. 1, 2014, alleging among other things that Wiles and Lewis bought the airplane in May 2013 for $130,000 in cash.
On Feb. 27, 2014, they landed the plane at the Yellowstone Regional Airport, covered the plane’s windows to conceal its interior, paid for fuel and other services with cash, and used a phony name at the airport and to register at a local hotel.
As part of the police investigation, a drug-detection canine alerted to the odor of controlled substances emanating from the plane.
During the later search of their hotel room, police found a blue duffel bag containing $258,520 packaged in 12 vacuum-sealed bags. Officers also found $1,467 in cash in a jacket lying on a dresser, and a number of fake driver’s licenses bearing Lewis’s picture.=
The federal investigation also showed Wiles and Lewis had not registered the airplane with the Federal Aviation Administration.
A review of Lewis’s criminal history showed he was convicted of a misdemeanor drug violation in California in November 2010 after he was arrested outside a residence that had 185 pounds of marijuana and more than $250,000 in cash.
Lewis, represented by an attorney from California, responded to the civil forfeiture complaint by filing counterclaims to the plane and money.
In a separate criminal prosecution on Jan. 14, 2016, the federal grand jury for Wyoming indicted Lewis and Wiles for conspiracy and operating an unregistered aircraft in violation of federal law.
Lewis and Wiles pleaded guilty to the felony crime of operating an unregistered aircraft and were sentenced to probation in June.
As part of these sentences, federal court forfeited the Cessna to the United States. The airplane was then dismissed from the civil forfeiture action.