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Tue Apr 26, 2016, 08:25 AM

Why Oklahoma cops are returning $53,000 to a Christian band, an orphanage and a church

Why Oklahoma cops are returning $53,000 to a Christian band, an orphanage and a church

By Christopher Ingraham

April 26 at 8:33 AM

On Monday, I wrote about a strange civil forfeiture case out of Oklahoma, in which Muskogee County sheriff's deputies seized over $53,000 in cash from a Burmese Christian rock band, a church in Omaha and an orphanage in Thailand following a traffic stop over a busted tail light.

After the story was published, Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge decided to dismiss both the civil case (the cash seizure) and a criminal charge of "acquir[ing] proceeds from drug activity" against the principal defendant, Eh Wah, after reviewing the evidence and speaking with the officers involved. ... "I looked at the case and met with the officers and determined that we would not be able to meet the burden of proof in the criminal case and in the civil case," Loge said in an interview. He also cited the press coverage of the story and said that his office has heard from "a lot of citizens" who were upset about the details of the case.

{How police took $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage and a church}

Eh Wah was acting as the volunteer tour manager for the Klo and Kweh Music Team, a group from Burma. They were touring the United States to raise money for a Christian liberal arts school in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand. They collected their concert proceeds in cash, which they entrusted to Eh Wah to manage and safeguard.

Eh Wah was pulled over for a broken tail light in February by Muskogee County sheriff's deputies, who said a drug-sniffing dog alerted on the car. When the deputies searched the car, they found all $53,000 that the band had raised. They didn't like Eh Wah's explanation for why he had it, citing inconsistencies in his responses to police questions. So they seized the cash and eventually charged him with a drug felony, even though they found no drugs or paraphernalia in the car or in his possession.

{Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year}

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