A stakeout at a posh Galleria area hotel would end in a way federal agents never imagined. They were left with nearly $1 million in cash. What's more, the man who was carrying the money claimed he knew nothing about it.
Special Agent Michael Booker with the Department of Homeland Security said, "He had the look of shock on his face and he immediately gave up the money and said he didn't know whose money it was, that he was just supposed to give the money to someone in Houston."
The well-dressed man with the cash is from Mexico. Federal authorities had him under surveillance because they believe he may have been tied to a money laundering scheme for a drug trafficking organization. They say he checked into the hotel last week and did things most tourists would do.
"He would go out to movies, eat at local restaurants, shopping -- nothing out of the ordinary," Booker said.
The unidentified man spent about $5,000. Agents confronted him in the hallway outside his hotel room as he was leaving to check out. He surrendered the cash and failed to provide investigators with the answers they were looking for.
Since it's not illegal to carry large sums of money, federal investigators, with nothing to go on, let him go. But the case is far from being closed.
Booker said, "He was part of the chain, basically, to get the money back to Mexico in some fashion, whether it be bulk cash smuggling or another method."
The seized cash will go to the treasury forfeiture fund. That fund is used to supply local and state law enforcement with equipment and overtime needs to assist federal investigators in their efforts to fight crime.