A federal judge has ruled that police in Nebraska must return the $1 million they seized in a traffic stop to an exotic dancer who earned the money over a 15-year-old career.
Tara Mishra, now 33, reportedly began to save the $1 million at 18, when she began her career in exotic dancing, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon wrote in an opinion last week, according to ABC News. Mishra, a native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., had planned to use the money to fund her own business, after spending the last 15 years as a stripper.
Nebraska state troopers seized the $1 million in March 2012, after pulling over Rajesh and Marina Dheri, two of Mishra’s friends, for speeding, according to case documents. The Dheris reportedly received the money from Mishra, who planned on partnering with the pair to open a New Jersey nightclub, ABC News reports.
During the traffic stop, a Nebraska state trooper reportedly asked the Dheris if he could search the trunk of their rental car, Judge Bataillon wrote in his opinion. When the Dheris acquiesced, police discovered $1 million belonging to Mishra, bundled in increments of $10,000.
Although the Dheris had been pulled over for speeding, Nebraska police reportedly believed that Mishra’s $1 million was drug money, according to Judge Bataillon’s opinion. State troopers then seized the cash and took the Dheris into custody. However, a subsequent investigation failed to produce evidence of drug activity related to Mishra or the Dheris, while a K-9 unit discovered only traces of illegal drugs on the $1 million, ABC News reports.
Ultimately, Judge Bataillon ordered Nebraska police to return the $1 million earned by Mishra during her career as an exotic dancer, ABC News reports. The money, amounting to $1,074,000, will be returned to its owner with interest. Mishra and the Dheris have yet to comment on the situation.
"The government failed to show a substantial connection between drugs and the money," Judge Bataillon wrote in his opinion. "The dog sniff is inconsequential. ... 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."