BANGOR (AP) – Three parties are laying claim in federal court to $165,580 in cash that was discovered in a black bag found alongside of railroad tracks in northern Maine.

The bag of loot was found on Feb. 4, 2005, when workers aboard a train noticed it alongside tracks near the Van Buren-Grand Isle town line shortly after a snowmobile veered off the tracks in front of the train.

In a case in U.S. District Court in Bangor, an engineer and conductor on the train claim ownership of the cash.

But the U.S. attorney says the money belongs to the federal government because the cash came from drug trafficking and was transported illegally across the Canada-Maine border.

Further complicating matters, Allen Gagnon, 44, of Van Buren claims the money is his. He said it represents his life savings and that he lost it while carrying it on his snowmobile to his sister’s house in Madawaska, where he planned to store it.

The incident arose when workers aboard a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train noticed a snowmobile on the tracks in front of them. After the snowmobile veered off, one of them noticed the black bag in some bushes.

Thinking the bag might be holding rule books and other documentation used by train personnel, they grabbed the bag and discovered the money. They called the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and two agents retrieved the bag.

Daniel Madore, an engineer, and Traves Lapointe, a conductor, have filed claims in federal court as finders of lost property.

But the government claims the money is ill-gotten. Border patrol agents said they found snowmobile tracks leading from Canada to a house in Van Buren that “has been associated with the smuggling of contraband…and illegal border crossings.”

“Intelligence gathered from several recent large currency seizures revealed that the currency was being smuggled into Canada as payment for marijuana smuggled into the United States,” the documents state.

Three days after the money was found, Gagnon called the Van Buren Border Patrol station saying he had heard they had found the bag and that it was his and he wanted it back. He filed the petition after agents refused to give him the money.

According to court records, Gagnon wrote that he lost the bag while riding a snowmobile along the railroad tracks. After noticing the bag was missing, he returned to find the bag in the possession of a Border Patrol agent.

“I was stopped at gunpoint and frisked,” he wrote. “I was told I did not belong there.”

He contends he never took the money out of the country and that he was traveling to his sister’s home in Madawaska.



Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com


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