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Fitchburg trio faces charges in Ohio;
Police report finding $506,791 in SUV

Copyright 2003 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE (Massachusetts)
December 20, 2003 Saturday, ALL EDITIONS

- Police are investigating local ties to three Fitchburg residents who were charged with money laundering in Ohio after police found bundles of cash hidden in an SUV.
The three people, two men and a woman, allegedly had 27 bundles of cash totaling $506,791 hidden in the rear of their 1997 Ford Expedition, said Lt. Rick Fambro, a spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol headquarters in Columbus. He said they were driving to California.

He said the three adults, along with a child, were heading west on the Ohio Turnpike Thursday when they were pulled over for allegedly following too closely. The vehicle is registered in Massachusetts.
A Highway Patrol officer noticed what Lt. Fambro called ''criminal indicators'' and walked around the vehicle with a police dog. The dog had a ''positive alert,'' according to Lt. Fambro, and the car was searched.

Juan Carlos Sahagun Rodriguez, the driver, and Juan Alcala, both 24, were arrested along with Belia Francisca Larios Sanchez, 23. They were charged with money laundering and possession of criminal tools. Mr. Rodriguez also was charged with the traffic offense.

All three were held at the Lucas County Jail in Ohio in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Lt. Fambro could not say what the ''criminal indicators'' were. Also, he would not describe the criminal tools, saying the case is still under investigation. The Toledo Blade in Ohio reported the money was found in a hidden compartment in the rear of the back seat.

Lt. Fambro did not confirm or deny that report. ''Obviously, we're trying to put together the details of the investigation,'' he said.

He said police developed leads indicating the three people, who gave an address of 7 Winthrop St., Fitchburg, were traveling from Massachusetts to California. He said that evidence resulted in the money laundering charges.

''A lot of it will depend on the investigation,'' he said. ''At this point, we're trying to tie things up on both ends,'' in Massachusetts and California. ''We're trying to retrace their steps.''

Ohio police called Fitchburg police yesterday to see whether the three suspects are known to police here.

Police Chief Edward F. Cronin said yesterday the three do not have records with the Fitchburg Police Department. A retired Fitchburg detective said at least one of the residents looked familiar, but questioned the 7 Winthrop St. address the three people gave to Ohio police.

The three denied they owned or knew of the money, Lt. Fambro said. Children's Services in Toledo took custody of Ms. Sanchez's 3-year-old child, who was in the SUV.

Hey, nowadays who doesn't travel with at least a half million in their car? You buy 2 gallons of milk lately? Almost $7! You factor that in and the price of gas & hotel rooms going from Mass to Cali & they'll have some pocket change and lint by the time they get to the looney Left Coast.

Either way, good grab! :thumbup:
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