Exotic dancer Tara Mishra is entitled to her life savings of more than $1 million, a judge ruled last week, after Nebraska state troopers suspected it was drug money and confiscated it last year during a traffic stop.
Mishra, 33, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., started saving the dollar bills she earned stripping when she was 18, and had amassed more than $1 million.
In March 2012, she reportedly handed the cash over to friends, Rajesh and Marina Dheri of Montville, N.J., because the trio was planning to open a nightclub. The Dheris were later stopped for speeding in Nebraska during a road trip to Chicago, and state troopers found the money in the trunk of their car in $10,000 bundles, according to ABC News.
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Suspecting it was drug money, the officers took the Dheris into custody but could not find any evidence of drug activity. A K-9 analysis of the money only revealed trace amounts of illegal drugs. The couple was later released.
Mishra filed a claim to get the money back, but was originally told she had no legal standing. Now, a federal judge has ordered cops to return the $1 million to Mishra.
"The government failed to show a substantial connection between drugs and the money," U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon wrote in his opinion last week. "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."
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Bataillon said, the government "left too many unanswered questions and had a general failure of proof in this case," and ordered the state of Nebraska to repay Mishra the original amount plus interest.
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