by: Sarah Rosario Updated:
IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. - Stacks of money wrapped in aluminum foil were found by deputies in Iredell County. They're trying to figure out if it's fake or real.
Investigators learned it could be connected to an international scheme.
Officers manning the streets for holiday travel found it on Interstate 77 during a traffic stop. The driver said she had no clue it was there.
"They found a lot of bundles hidden in the speaker box of the vehicle in a void," said Capt. Darren Campbell.
The stacks were almost unrecognizable. They were coated with a thick black ink; some were wet and wrapped in plastic bags, others in aluminum foil. Officers couldn't tell if it was real or fake but say it could be more than $400,000.
After doing some research investigators learned it's similar to what's known as a Nigerian black money scheme. Eyewitness News was with officers after they looked at the money already packaged up as evidence to send off to their crime lab.
"Because of how it was packed and placed, we knew it was something. We just weren't able to know for sure because we have not seen that around here," said Campbell.
According to the woman's phone GPS, officers found the money was coming from Detroit to Charlotte.
They couldn't make an arrest because there wasn't a victim. Officers said it's not a crime to carry cash, but the act to defraud someone is.
Eyewitness News spoke with a Secret Service agent who said a similar case involving the same type of black money was found last year in Charlotte.
Three people from Philadelphia were arrested. Now the Secret Service is working with Iredell's Interstate Criminal Enforcement team to see if there may be some type of connection.
A another similar case was also found last year in Charlotte but the paper ended up being fake so the case was dropped.
In a typical Nigerian money scheme, the seller will offer to give the buyer a large amount of money at a lesser cost in exchange for payment up front.
Once the deal is made the seller teaches the buyer how to clean the money. Later the buyer finds out the top layers are real, but the rest is fake.
A former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker said the seller always has some type of a story.
"It could happen to anyone who has an element of greed that will fall for this type of scam and a little bit of gullibility to go along with it," Swecker said.
Eyewitness News learned targets are often the elderly, foreign business owners or people who need money.
Iredell investigators will work with the Secret Service. If the money turns out to be counterfeit, the woman pulled over could face federal charges.