Texas cops: $1 million recovered in semi fire likely drug money

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 12/11/2014

Authorities who recovered roughly $1 million in cash following a tractor-trailer fire in Texas earlier this month said they believe the money was likely connected to illegal drugs.

Lt. Jay Webb, a spokesman for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, said his agency is in the process of filing a claim on the funds, which would then be used for law enforcement purposes. Firefighters discovered the piles of cash when they attempted to extinguish a blaze that ignited in the wheel well of an Atlas Van Lines trailer, just west of Waskom on Interstate 20.

“When (the firefighters) hit it with the hoses, money started flying,” he said. “When they knocked the fire down, it was discovered that inside the van, there were several bundles of money that had been packaged in a typical manner of how drug money is transported – wrapped in plastic and then rewrapped in aluminum foil.”

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 36-year-old Eric Royster, pulled the rig over and managed to detach the trailer before being fatally struck and killed by another driver as he stood across the roadway and attempted to take pictures of the scene, Webb said. The fire is believed to have resulted from brake failure.

The money was stowed inside the side doors of the moving trailer, which was delivering two loads of household goods to stops in Arizona and California.

While some of the money was burned, Webb estimated about $300,000 in “viable” currency was left unburnt. He said the remains of the rest of the money are on their way to Washington, D.C., to be identified by the Treasury department.

“Quite honestly, we don’t anticipate anyone to come forward and collect on this money,” he said. “In my 44 years of being a police officer, I’ve never witnessed this particular instance. I’ve certainly found human beings secreted in vans and such, but I’ve never seen this much money in one place ever.”

“Land Line Now” News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.

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