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West Virginia Police Swipe $10K In Casino Winnings From Couple Who Committed No Crime

Gamblers' Road Trip Goes Terribly Wrong When Stopped By Troopers


Losing big on your way to the casino sure makes for a bad gambling road trip.

A New Jersey couple last week finally retrieved about $10,500 worth of casino winnings that West Virginia state police took from them in a June traffic stop, according to a report from

The couple—Dimitrios Patlias and Tonya Smith—were pulled over for allegedly swerving from their lane on the highway. After two hours, police finally left them off with a warning but took all but $2 of their cash. West Virginia was able to confiscate the money under what is known as civil asset forfeiture, a decades-long practice spanning administrations of both political parties.

According to Patlias, state police asked point-blank: “How much money do you have on you?”

West Virginia also took gift and casino rewards cards from them. The state reportedly said last month that they had to travel back down to West Virginia to recover their money and property. Reportedly, they were able to recover the money after local media began covering their story.

Patlias and Smith were on their way to the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, so when West Virginia took the money the state very likely deprived the Penn National Gaming casino of some revenue. West Virginia’s casino market contracted 4.6 percent last year, worst in the country.

When Patlias refused to answer how much cash he had, he was handcuffed and a drug dog was called to the scene to search the car, he told Nothing was found. It was then when police emptied their pockets and took the more than $10,000 in casino winnings, he said. The couple reportedly had visited other nearby casinos before making the trip to Charles Town. The couple said they had documentation to show they had won the money gambling.

“They violated my Fourth Amendment rights,” Patlias said. “They took me and my pregnant wife out of the car on a dangerous highway and left us with $2 to get home.”

Despite getting their money back, the couple has no plans to ever again give business to West Virginia casinos. “I will never set foot in that state again,” Smith, the wife, said. “I’m nervous when I see police now. What kind of country do we live in anymore?”

Civil asset forfeiture ran rampant under the Obama Administration before a futile effort to reform it only a year before Obama was set to leave office. Then the Trump Administration took power and continued the highly controversial practice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Civil asset forfeiture is often used to seize property and cash from suspected drug traffickers. Fueled by his hatred of marijuana, Sessions reportedly has bolstered the practice.

Per the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia lawmakers didn’t act on a bill earlier this year that would have helped innocent people recover seized property.

While the couple had to spend their summer working to recover their money, their ordeal wasn’t as nightmarish as what two California poker pros had to endure when the state of Iowa took about $100,000 of their poker winnings in a routine traffic stop in 2013. Years later, they were able to get the state to fork over $150,000, but they still had attorney fees.



over 3 years ago

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over 3 years ago