Hampton settlement close over $80,690 seized by police

HAMPTON — Hampton prosecutors are working to settle a forfeiture case involving $80,690 that was confiscated from a New Jersey truck driver on the Eastern Shore in January.

According to three separate sources with knowledge of the case, Hampton police allege that Marcos Terron was on his way to Hampton to buy cigarettes at Blue Water Tobacco — an undercover firm created to catch cigarette traffickers — on Jan. 3 when the cash was seized.

The money is now at the center of a pending asset forfeiture case in Hampton Circuit Court. Both Terron and another New Jersey man, Harvey Acevedo — who wasn't in the truck that day but asserts the cash was his — have interests in the money, according to court documents.

Neither Terron, 36, of Perth Amboy, N.J., nor Acevedo, 40, of Edison, N.J., were arrested or charged with any crimes.

A trial on whether the $80,690 in cash should be forfeited is on the court's docket, scheduled for Dec. 14 before Circuit Court Judge Louis R. Lerner.

But the prosecutor on the case, Hampton Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Murphy, said the matter is likely to be settled before that time. "We are working toward a mutual resolution," Murphy said. "That we would get 'X' amount, and they would get 'Y' amount."

The percentage that each side will get out of the $80,690 "is still being negotiated," Murphy said, adding that Lerner would also need to sign off on the deal to avoid the trial.

Murphy said the prosecutors' office's interest in settling the case did not arise from publicity surrounding the Blue Water Tobacco cigarette operation nor from concerns over the conduct of officers involved in the sting.

"This isn't an attempt to cover up what happened," Murphy said of the likelihood of a settlement. "This was something that was presented to the defense at the very beginning of the case ... In fact, I was prepared to do depositions with all the guys and put everything on the record."

Among those to be deposed in the forfeiture case, Murphy said, was James Crotts, a former Hampton police lieutenant who retired in April — six weeks after being put on paid leave in February pertaining to the cigarette case.

Another officer who was scheduled to be deposed, Murphy said, was Cpl. Christopher Lyon, another Hampton officer who was once investigated in the cigarette case. Lyon went back to work in July, five months after being put on paid leave.

A seizure of cash

On Jan. 3, Terron was driving south on the Eastern Shore, heading toward Hampton Roads. Then he hit a roadblock: The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was closed to certain traffic — including the box truck he was driving — because of strong winds.

The same night, agents with the Virginia State Police conducted a "consensual" search of the truck about 27 miles north of the bridge, sources said. The truck was searched in a parking lot off Route 13, outside a pizza restaurant in the town of Exmore.

Because the State Police, the Hampton City Attorney's Office and Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney's Office have all denied requests for the police reports pertaining to the seizure, it's still unclear what spurred the State Police to search Terron's truck.

But according to court records, the state officers seized a large amount of cash — $80,690 — in the search, and the case pertaining to that confiscation was soon moved from Northampton County to Hampton.

According to a "Notice of Seizure" filed with the Circuit Court in the Terron and Acevedo case, the cash was seized because it was used in substantial connection with or was the product of "the illegal drug trade," or was used in money laundering, or was "traceable" to the proceeds of an act punishable as a felony in Virginia.

That notice was initially filed on Jan. 5 — two days after the cash seizure — in Northampton County Circuit Court by a Northampton County prosecutor. But in April, the case was transferred to Hampton Circuit Court and the Hampton prosecutor's office.

Neither Terron nor Acevedo could be reached for comment for this story.

But in the civil asset forfeiture proceeding in Hampton, prosecutors have contended the seized cash was derived from felony conduct. Depending on the amount of cigarettes being bought or moved, cigarette trafficking can be a felony crime in Virginia.