Two Illinois men cruising through Yellowstone National Park this summer should have obeyed the speed limit, not smoked marijuana in their car nor kept it and other drugs at their campsite, and put more faith in banks.

Otherwise, they wouldn't have forfeited $20,337 in cash to the federal government, according to records filed by the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office in U.S. District Court.

Wednesday, Jacob Dotson and Dustin Alvis were notified of the forfeiture after they failed to try to recover their money seized on at the Trout Lake Trailhead on July 8.

On that day, a ranger pulled over Alvis and Dotson after he saw their car traveling at 61 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to the complaint filed on Sept. 6.

The ranger approached the car, talked to the men, smelled burnt marijuana, and asked if there was any marijuana in the car, "to which both occupants stated '[n]o.'"

Dotson was the owner of the car, and said he lost his license somewhere between Illinois and the park.

At the ranger's request, Dotson exited the car. The ranger asked what was in his pocket, and Dotson pulled out a container with a trace of marijuana in it.

He doesn't keep money in a bank. He keeps his money under his mattress.

The ranger then asked Alvis to get out of the car.

The ranger found a backpack with an estimated $20,000, and then conducted informal interviews with both men.

Dotson told the ranger:

  • "'a. Some of the marijuana contraband in the vehicle was his.
  • 'b. He works for a department store in the shoe department.
  • 'c. He put approximately $11,000 in the backpack when he and Alvis left Illinois.
  • 'd. He didn't use a credit or debit card for the money because he didn't want to leave a paper trail.
  • 'e. He has expensive taste, that's why so much cash.'"

Alvis told the ranger:

  • "'a. Some of the marijuana contraband in the vehicle was his.
  • 'b. His work entails cleaning trailers and some other side jobs.
  • 'c. $10,000 in the backpack was his.
  • 'd. He brought the cash with him on the trip because he didn't have any one to watch it.
  • 'e. He doesn't keep money in a bank.
  • 'f. He keeps his money under his mattress.'"

After the interviews, the ranger took them to Mammoth Hot Springs where they were held in custody.

Alvis said in a custodial interview that he'd been saving the $10,000 "'all his life,'" and he lives with his mother. Alvis then asked for an attorney.

During his custodial interview, Dotson said the $11,000 came from his shoe-salesman work, a birthday gift and doing odd jobs; all the money belonged to Alvis; and he and Alvis planned to buy marijuana in Oregon to sell in Illinois.

Dotson also signed a statement declaring none of the money was his.

Because the money was intended for criminal purposes, the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office filed the forfeiture document.

Dotson and Alvis had until this week to file a claim to recover the cash, but they didn't. So the feds get to keep it.

Meanwhile, the day after the traffic stop, park officials responded to Alvis' and Dotson's failure to check out of the Madison Campground, according to the criminal charges filed against them.

A ranger searched their campsite and found marijuana, LSD, hashish, hashish oil, clonazepam and alprazolam.

On July 11, Alvis and Dotson pleaded guilty to simple marijuana possession. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman fined them $1,000, placed them on five years of supervised probation, and banned them from Yellowstone National Park for five years.

Alvis could not be reached for comment.

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