COVINGTON -- Deputies with the Newton County Sheriff's Office Interdiction Unit seized more than $35,000 in cash and a cache of weapons as they patrolled along Interstate 20 recently.
"They're out there for visibility and traffic enforcement and we'll be seeing a lot more of this type of thing in the future," said Lt. Tyrone Oliver.
The NCSO deputies are working in conjunction with the Butts County Sheriff's Office.
On April 4, deputies stopped a GMC Yukon at mile marker 90 on Interstate 20 west for failing to maintain lane.
In speaking with the driver of the vehicle and his passenger, deputies became suspicious of the pair.
The driver was asked if he had a large amount of cash in the vehicle and he said he had $6,000 and he later stated he had $9,000. When asked by one of the deputies if he could search the vehicle, the driver agreed.
Meanwhile, the passenger had told a deputy that they were coming from Summerville, S.C., and were on their way to Atlanta to pay a bill.
"I asked him what type of bill he was paying," the NCSO incident report completed by one of the deputies states. "He advised he did not have the bill, but the driver did. He stated the driver owned a business that delivers items to gas stations. I asked him if they were going to pay the bill tonight and he stated they were. I found it strange because the time was a little past 7 p.m."
During the search of the vehicle, $13,400 in cash and a small set of scales were found. It was also discovered that the driver was being investigated by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) for buying and selling counterfeit items.
Because large sums of cash are frequently used in drug deals, one of the deputies placed the money into a new paper bag, along with two other new paper bags. The Butts County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit arrived and the dog was observed to alert on the bag containing the money, pawing at it until he tore it open. He did not alert on the other two bags.
The money and scales were seized. The driver was charged with failure to maintain lane and released along with his passenger.
"The owners of the money will have to provide documentation on where the cash came from before it will be released to them," Oliver explained. "Neither the driver nor the passenger are claiming ownership right now."
On April 5, deputies stopped a Ford Escape just east of the Alcovy Road exit on I-20, also for failure to maintain lane.
When they approached the vehicle, they reported smelling a strong odor of burnt marijuana. Due to the pair's suspicious behavior, a K-9 Unit was called to the scene and alerted on the vehicle.
A search of the vehicle yielded several guns, two of which were reported stolen, and a large amount of ammunition.
Arrested were Marcus Terrell Johnson, 664 Mill Pond Road, Varnville, S.C., who was charged with theft by receiving stolen property, and Marquis Antwan Smith of 356 Dennis Blvd., Varnville, S.C., who was charged with theft by receiving stolen property, failure to maintain lane and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
On April 12, deputies stopped a black Dodge Durango traveling west on I-20 near mile marker 97 for having excessive window tint.
Suspicious behavior by the driver and his passenger made the deputies call in the K-9 Unit and the dog alerted on the vehicle.
A large sum of cash -- $22,531 -- was found hidden in the vehicle, although no drugs were found and no arrests were made.
Oliver said the cash probably had the odor of narcotics on it. The money was seized and no one is claiming ownership of it.