Man whose $11K was seized at CVG gets it back -- with interest -- after settlement

Authorities said money was being used for drugs

More than two years after agents at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport seized $11,000 from Charles Clarke, he got his money back -- and then some.

Clarke agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Government Tuesday that would award him his $11,000 plus interest. Clarke was not awarded any compensatory damages.

In Feb. 2014, Clarke was traveling to Florida from CVG when police stopped him, according to the lawsuit. He was 24 at the time.

A ticket agent complained that Clarke smelled like marijuana at the time. During his interview, agents took $11,000 in cash that Clarke said he was going to use to pay for college. Investigators claimed the money came from drug dealing or would be used to purchase drugs.

The ensuing legal battle over civil asset forfeiture made national headlines and illuminated an issue that nets local and federal agencies millions of dollars every year.

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice in which police are able to seize cash and property from people who are suspect of a crime -- even if that person isn’t convicted or sometimes even charged. 

It took Clarke five years to save up the money, according to representatives with the Institute for Justice (IJ), who represented him pro bono. The nonprofit civil liberties group said he is one of thousands of people who have had their money seized through civil forfeiture.

The officer said Clarke became agitated when they took his cash and that he tried to keep officers from the money. At the time, Clarke was charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

No drugs or anything illegal was found during the incident, police said.

Reporter Rose-Ann Aragon and former Web Editor Jesse Folk contributed to this report.

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