PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Steven Williams was sitting in his seat waiting for his plane to push back from the terminal at Portland International Airport for a flight to Phoenix when FBI agents boarded the plane and ordered him to go with them.
Back in the terminal, surrounded by other travelers, the agents asked him to explain why he was carrying $121,940 cash.
Nearly a year later, the Vancouver man is suing the FBI to get the money back.
According to a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Portland, Williams first drew the suspicion of TSA agents, when they spotted the cash in his luggage while going through security April 11, 2018. They let him go on to his gate but contacted the FBI office in Portland.
Williams said the agents threatened to “drag him through the airport,” and later “raid his home” if he didn’t let them search his phone and belongings. He thought he didn’t have a choice, so he handed over his phone.
The lawsuit claims the agents searched through years worth of texts, finding messages from seven years ago that they believed were related to selling cannabis.
He told them the texts and cash were not related to any criminal activity. He said he was carrying the cash for “legitimate business purposes.”
The FBI eventually let Williams go and he has never been charged with a crime, but they confiscated his cash.
After 75 days, Williams got a notice of nonjudicial forfeiture from the FBI but when he tried to get his money back, the FBI denied him.
Williams’ lawsuit claims the agents acted unconstitutionally and in violation of the fourth and fifth amendments.
He is requesting his confiscated money back and payment for attorney’s fees and litigation costs.