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by EMILY SHARP

The federal government moved Tuesday to seize more than $20,000 in cash from two Texas State students, claiming that the two were involved in interstate marijuana trafficking.

No federal arrest warrant appeared to be part of the government’s civil filing. No arrest warrants are pending, according to the Hays County District Attorney’s office.

The U.S. Postal Inspector asked a U.S. District Court for the forfeiture in the case of Luther Yamthe and Dominique Davila. In its court filing, the postal inspector claimed the pair had been involved in sending cash payments through the mail to California and receiving high-grade marijuana. Forfeiture of property is an unusual step by the government but one often invoked in which criminal charges are not forthcoming.

Yamthe is a junior and Davila is a senior at Texas State, according to the university website’s people search. In its complaint, the government alleged that the two sent small domination payments in exchange for the marijuana to Fasadeuang Sengphachanh in Anderson, California. Sengphachanh allegedly mailed the marijuana to the two students in San Marcos on Avalon Avenue and Telluride Street. On Aug. 21, 2015, Yamthe was one of eight people arrested for disorderly conduct on a party bus. Yamthe was not convicted.

Davila and Yamthe could not be immediately reached for comment.

The postal service noticed that the residence or names on the addresses did not match up after a high volume were sent within three months, from February through April of this year, according to its filing. Two packages were then held for closer inspection.

A drug dog subsequently sniffed dummy packages and alerted only on two packages sent from the San Marcos students with the cash. One package contained $7,980 and the other contained $14,000. The government asked a judge to claim the cash through forfeiture, which is also known as an arrest in rem. So far, the two have not been charged with any drug crime.

Sengphachanh, the California man, is attempting to fight the government’s forfeiture. However, civil forfeiture cases comprise unusual processes that have sparked controversy. These cases are civil in nature and not criminal. While defendants don’t face jail time they are also not entitled to normal property rights that are part of a civil dispute. A 2012 article published by The New Yorker shed light on a slew of such controversial cases, including in Texas.

A professor at Texas State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sindy Chapa, had her homes seized by federal prosecutors after they alleged the property was bought with proceeds of criminal activity, according to an article published by mySA. Chapa had no criminal charges filed against her and is now a professor at Florida State University.

EMILY SHARP reports for the University Star where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the University Star and the San Marcos Mercury.

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Civil Forfeiture 10/11/16 by San Marcos Mercury

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