WENATCHEE — A state Auditor’s report found Wenatchee Valley narcotics detectives did not follow their own policies on cash handling, and miscounted handled thousands of dollars in drug money seized on a search warrant.
The Columbia River Drug Task Force is the multi-agency narcotics team that investigates drug traffic in the Wenatchee Valley. On April 3, the team searched a home near Malaga, arresting two men on drug charges and rounding up an estimated 2-1/4 pounds of cocaine.
At first, authorities thought they’d also seized $88,300 in illicit cash, but a later count put the amount at about $68,400. An outside investigation by Thurston County detectives followed, and found the money was simply miscounted the first time, and there was no evidence of fraud.
The Auditor’s report, issued Thursday, says two task force officers did not formally document their first count of the money, as they were supposed to under the team’s guidelines. It was also unclear whether the cash bags were properly sealed once the money was counted at the scene.
Finally, when one task force officer began counting the money a second time, he initially did so without a second person present. This violated internal control standards at both the task force and the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, which is the task force’s lead agency.
The county says since that time, it’s put new safeguards in place, including the purchase of a portable currency counting machine.
The homeowner, Cesar Javier Mora Sr., is now serving a year in prison after pleading guilty to cocaine possession with intent and unlawful firearm possession. His partner Jose Carmen Valadez is in prison for a year and a half for acting as a cocaine dealer. The final count of the seized money: $68,462.