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Monessen traffic stop nets marijuana, $16,000

| Monday, July 29, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
A faulty brake light that spurred a traffic stop in Monessen could cost a Pittsburgh woman big bucks. Following the late Saturday traffic stop, police seized more than $16,000 – mostly in $100 and $20 bills – from a shoebox in the backseat of a car.

A faulty brake light that spurred a traffic stop in Monessen could cost a Pittsburgh woman big bucks.

Following the late Saturday traffic stop, police seized more than $16,000 – mostly in $100 and $20 bills – from a shoebox in the backseat of a car.

Police stopped Rachel Lynn Bundy, 32, of Marlboro Avenue 10:20 p.m. in the 800 block of Schoonmaker Avenue.

Bundy, who was alone in the car, now faces drug charges and might end up losing the money to the city's war on illicit drugs.

Bundy claimed the cash was a gift from a man identified only as “Z” at the Highland Manor housing project, police alleged.

Monessen police Chief John Mandarino said the large amount of cash is an example of skyrocketing drug sales in Monessen.

“It just proves what is going on in this town when somebody is holding that amount of money,” Mandarino said Sunday.

“Most people do not realize the amount of drugs now being sold in this town. This may have been costly for (Bundy), but this is just a drop in the bucket.”

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Officer David Winkler witnessed Bundy driving past the intersection of 10th Street and Knox Avenue with a strong odor of marijuana coming from her car windows. Bundy's brake light was not functioning at the time, police said.

After being pulled over, Bundy claimed she had come into town to see her male friend, “Z,” who wants her to be his girlfriend, the affidavit stated.

She also allegedly handed Winkler a suspected marijuana cigarette.

A subsequent search of the car revealed a clear bag containing a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Searching the backseat, Winkler found a green Jimmy Jazz bag with a shoebox inside. Inside the shoebox,Winkler saw one bundle of cash with a $100 bill on top, the affidavit stated.

At the station, police emptied the box and found seven bundles of money comprising 15 stacks of cash in $1,000 increments and another stack containing $1,025 – a total of $16,025, the affidavit states.

At the station, Bundy told police she had dropped her daughter off and drove from her house to meet “Z” in Monessen. Police said Bundy claimed she did not know his name, but he had “like an African name.”

Bundy allegedly told police she and the man smoked marijuana together, and that “Z” wanted to help her out with money issues.

When police asked where “Z” lived, Bundy said she did not know anything else, reiterated the money was given to her so the two could have a relationship, and refused speak further.

Bundy was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and a traffic violation.

She was arraigned Sunday morning by Magisterial District Justice Frank Pallone of New Kensington and released on $5,000 unsecured bond.

Her preliminary hearing is scheduled 10 a.m. Friday in Monessen before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso.

Bundy's car was impounded and the money was placed in the Monessen police evidence room.

Mandarino said police maintained custody of the money, because Bundy could not prove she acquired it through legitimate means.

Mandarino said the money will undergo an ION Scan – a service provided by the National Guard that is designed to detect 13 different illegal drug particles.

If the money is found to have an abnormal amount of drug particles, Mandarino said, the cash would be considered contraband.

“If they're able to find higher concentrations than normal, we will start court procedures on the seizure of that money,” said Mandarino, adding city police could use it for drug seizures and investigations.

“We're never going to be able to completely eradicate drug sales in Monessen, but we're going to continue making it very difficult to sell drugs here.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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