New London couple seeking return of seized money

A New London couple is seeking the return of more than $10,000 in cash that city police seized during a drug raid in November 2012 that yielded no illegal narcotics.

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci is attempting to prove that the money seized from Catrice Williams and Tyrone Santiago, who are both in their late 20s and have prior drug convictions, is from drug transactions and is therefore subject to forfeiture.

Williams and Santiago are exercising their right to an asset forfeiture hearing, which is a civil court proceeding at which the state must present clear and convincing evidence that the money was derived from drug sales.

The couple cross-examined three police officers as the hearing got underway Monday before Judge Susan B. Handy. Williams and Santiago asked for a continuance so they could speak to an attorney before presenting their case. The judge continued the hearing to March 27,

According to testimony and court documents, the police executed a search and seizure warrant at 70 Brainard St., Apt. 1, after an anonymous tip line caller and a confidential informant told them there were drug sales at the apartment. The police said they conducted two controlled purchases of illegal drugs at the apartment in the weeks before the raid during which they observed somebody resembling Williams meet the confidential informant at the door.

The officers said they forced their way into the apartment, finding no illegal narcotics but seizing $8,000 in cash from a bedroom closet and sums of money from Santiago’s pants pocket, two purses and a dresser drawer. Williams and Santiago dispute the amount of money seized and say the police took other items, including jewelry. They said the officers thanked them for the money and “high-fived” each other as they left the apartment.

Though nobody has been arrested, the police said the investigation is continuing.

Officer Brian Laurie testified that Williams had a lot of “brand new clothing” in the apartment, including “dozens upon dozens” of shoes. He said the officers marked three large plasma screen TVs as evidence. He noted Williams had two vehicles - an Audi and a minivan - and that the house was well-stocked with food. Williams, who said she works in the health care industry, said she was unemployed when the raid occurred but is currently working two jobs.

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