Retired trucker wants keepsake back; despite prosecutors’ order, police refuse

| 1/16/2004

For years, retired truck driver Curtis Smith Sr. had held onto a rare $1,000 bill, a treasured keepsake that he had carried in his pocket ever since he acquired it through a friend 20 years ago.

That is, the Jennings, MO, resident held onto it until a police officer confiscated it during a traffic stop in Pine Lawn, MO, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. That’s when the mayor of the town, Adrian Wright, decided he “fancied” the bill, the newspaper said, and decided to keep it.

According to The Post-Dispatch, Smith was in his truck on land he owned, sleeping off a few drinks. Police picked him up and brought him to the city’s police station, where the mayor watched as officers counted out the money he had on him. At that time, the mayor replaced the $1,000 bill with 10 $100 bills.

The money was placed in an account for confiscated drug money, despite the fact that Smith was arrested on suspicion on drunken driving, not drug activity, and despite the fact that county prosecutors refused to charge Smith with selling drugs and ordered the money returned.

When Smith went to the city seeking the return of his keepsake, he was instead given a check for the amount, as well as for other cash that was found on him. City officials told the newspaper that if he wanted the bill, he could claim it once he reimbursed the city for the face value.

However, Smith told The Post-Dispatch he repeatedly asked the police, over the phone and in person, to return the bill – to no avail.

The bill is worth far more than its face value; experts told the newspaper it could bring as much as $3,500 from a collector. It has been out of print since 1934.