After a newspaper broke a story about an innocent Oklahoma man who had his cash unjustly seized and a criminal charge filed against him, it was announced that the charges against him will be dropped and the money returned.
Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge recently announced that the $53,234 in cash seized from 40-year-old Eh Wah, the tour manager for Burmese rock band Klo & Kweh Music Team, in February will be returned and the drug-related felony charges filed against would be dropped.
According to the Washington Post, Eh Wah, an innocent Oklahoma man was carrying money raised by the band for a Thai orphanage when he was pulled over by authorities due to a broken tail light.
The deputy who pulled him over searched the car due to suspicion that he was carrying drug money. Despite not finding any drugs or paraphernalia, officers still took the money.
Eh Wah, a Burmese refugee who became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago, tried to air his explanation in broken English but was unsuccessful.
He was then brought to the police station for questioning but was eventually let go after six hours without any charges. The money, however, was not returned.
The confiscated money was later found out to be from concert ticket sales, merchandise and donations that the band accumulated by touring the United States. They planned to donate the money to an orphanage in Thailand and a religious college in Burma.
The Klo & Kweh Music Team performs a Christmas concert in New Bern, N.C. in December. (Image via The Washington Post)
Oklahoma’s civil forfeiture law allows the Muskogee County Sheriff’s department to seize money from a car with with very little evidence. Under the permissive law, Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge was able to charge him with acquiring proceeds from a drug activity, a felony, a month after the seizure despite no evidence of any illegal drugs.
Things changed, however, when the story was reported by the Washington Post. The district attorney immediately dismissed both the civil and the criminal charges against Eh Wah and pledged to return the cash.
“I looked at the case and met with the officers and determined that we would not be able to meet the burden of proof in the criminal case and in the civil case,” Loge said in an interview.
According to Loge, “a lot of citizens” have expressed their disappointment in the case after the story was reported on by the press.