‘Pulsating Carotid Artery' Leads to $50,000 Forfeiture

Attorney James Kirshner of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the seizure of $50,000 from one of his clients in Arkansas last year bothers him.

In that case, law enforcement seized $50,000 from Kirshner’s client, John Pajon of Ozone Park, N.Y., and an another man, Victor Velez of New York, after a traffic stop.

Pajon was driving a BMW with New York license plates when he and Velez were stopped by a Benton police officer in the early morning hours of Aug. 11, according to an affidavit filed by Eric Haworth, a detective with the Benton Police Department. Haworth is assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Little Rock District Office.

The police officer “noticed several signs of extreme nervous behavior, including a rapidly and visible pulsating carotid artery on the left side of [Pajon’s] neck,” according to the affidavit.

Pajon told the officer that there wasn’t anything illegal in the car and gave his permission to search it. Police found two bundles of cash in the car totaling $50,000.

The officer “recognized from training and experience in criminal interdiction that the currency was packaged and being transported in the vehicle in a manner consistent with being proceeds from criminal activities,” the affidavit said.

A drug dog later sniffed a bag with the money in it and indicted that the odor of narcotics had been present.

Pajon and Velez told police that the money wasn’t theirs. Pajon said he was holding the money for his girlfriend’s sister.

“Oftentimes these guys get nervous because the police find this money, and then they’ll say some things that aren’t quite so smart,” Kirshner told Arkansas Business last week.

Neither Pajon nor Velez was charged, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District filed a lawsuit to keep the money.

Kirshner filed a notice of appearance for Pajon, but then Pajon decided not to fight to get the money back. He said Pajon’s statement that it wasn’t his money would have been a problem in court. The U.S. Attorney’s Office received a judgment for the money on May 13.

Kirshner said he has a problem with cases such as these. “It’s perfectly legal to carry money around in this country,” he said.

Kirshner said some people don’t use banks and deal in cash. “But for some reason, if people get stopped driving their vehicle and have their money seized, then they have to fight to get it back,” he said.