report about $500,000 found by security guards at a nuclear plant is just too strange.
State police said the men drove up to the Beaver Valley Power Station in a tractor-trailer on Tuesday night to pick up two large containers of tools for a contractor for whom they worked.
Security guards stopped the men for a routine inspection, but they drove away, police said.
The guards became suspicious and called police, who pulled the truck over about a mile from the plant.
A state trooper got a warrant to search the vehicle and found a duffel bag, which he said contained $504,230 in mostly small bills.
take on the find:
State police said the bag, which guards spotted on Tuesday while conducting a routine search of the tractor-trailer at the entrance to the nuclear power plant, contained 10 plastic-wrapped bundles of cash totaling $504,230.
Police later seized the money and bag after a dog trained to detect drugs sniffed and reacted to the bag, indicating contact with controlled substances.
(my obeservation: any pile of cash that large will smell like drugs to a dog)
The truck driver and passenger, whose names were withheld but who are from Texas, were released without charges because no apparent crime had been committed.
We do know this about the truckers:
Police broadcast a description of the truck and Sgt. Davis pulled it over after spotting it on Route 168 south, near the Shippingport Bridge. He said the truckers were polite, but the passenger had no identification and said it had been stolen from the truck the night before.
"Your ID is stolen but not that bag of cash? Red flags were popping up all over," Sgt. Davis said.
But not to worry:
Investigators also notified the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, but said they do not believe the money or truckers are linked to workers or activities at the plant.
"Most likely, they were just between runs," said Trooper Jonathan Bayer. "The investigation is continuing, but there is no indication that there is any connection to the power plant."
The truckers worked for a company hired by San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., which is performing construction work and replacing equipment at the plant, said Richard Wilkins, spokesman for plant owner First Energy Nuclear Operating Co.
The name of the company was not released, but police said the truckers had come from Chicago and were making a scheduled stop to pick up and transport containers of tools to Youngstown, Ohio.
And from the first link:
Both men were detained and later released. No charges have been filed.
I have to run so I won't be able to update for a while, if need be. This is such an interesting story I thought it should be up anyway.
Update: Thanks to Joynow for this Times story provides more information on the drivers. It also mentions the desire of the authorities to keep the identity of the company involved as well as the identity of the drivers' boss secret.
The men, Donald R. Kingsby and William Lewis, were released Tuesday evening, though state police kept the money because they suspected there could be drug residue on it. The men denied the money belonged to them.
According to a state police search warrant, the men, with Kingsby driving, went to the security gate at the Shippingport plant around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in a semi rig hauling an empty flatbed trailer.
Todd Schneider, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the nuclear plant, said the men were expected at the facility. With construction work on a $300 million upgrade to the plant wrapping up, Schneider said, contractors are beginning to remove equipment.
Kingsby and Lewis, Schneider said, were to pick up containers loaded with tools belonging to a contractor at the plant and take them to another work site.
Schneider and state police did not release the name of the trucking company or say to which contractor the equipment belonged.
According to the search warrant, security officers at an entrance gate, following normal procedures, stopped the rig and told Kingsby and Lewis they would have to search the vehicle, and the men consented.
During the search, according to state Trooper Jonathan Bayer, security guards found a green, blue and black duffel bag, the size of a large gym bag, in the sleeper portion of the rig.
The bag had a lock on it, Bayer said, but when security guards asked Kingsby to unlock the bag, he said he didn't have a key. A guard then cut the lock off the bag and saw a large amount of cash inside. Kingsby said the money belonged to his boss, who had planned to buy a truck, according to the warrant.
When security guards called Kingsby's boss, whom state police did not name, he denied any knowledge of the money, according to the warrant.
Kingsby's boss told security guards, according to the warrant, that the two men had driven from Houston and had stopped in Chicago on Monday before heading to Shippingport.
Because of the confusion surrounding the money, Bayer said, security guards notified state police, who began heading toward the plant. In the meantime, Kingsby turned the rig around and drove away, Bayer said.
Davis said Kingsby and Lewis called their boss while state police were being notified, and their boss told the men to leave and he would send another truck to remove the tools.
Update: Thanks to meg for pointing out this "it's a small world" coincidence. Donald Kingsby is the name of one of the two men in the truck, and wouldn't you know it? There was a Donald Kingsby in the CIA who was the head spy at Pine Gap?
It seems impossible to me also that it could be the same guy, but so much of what has happened during the past five years has seemed impossible.
Aussies to Bear Missile Shield
BRISBANE, Australia -- President George W. Bush's re-election and the victory of a key ally, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, assure the continued deployment of the United States' so-called missile shield at Australia's Pine Gap defense facility, much to the ire of the Chinese government.
Australia will support the shield, allowing Americans to use Pine Gap -- located in the Northern Territory, 10 miles outside of Alice Springs -- to detect and track missile launches using an array of sophisticated antennas.
Staffed by Australians and Americans, the facility has been used for decades (since the late '60s, when two American-run satellite terminals were installed) to spy on the radio, electronic and telephone communications of Asian countries. Of the estimated 850 staff at the base, a big portion is reportedly Americans from spy agencies like the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as the U.S. armed forces.
"It's public knowledge that Pine Gap already has an early warning role," said Howard's defense minister Robert Hill. "To not address this opportunity of a defense of this type for the future would be foolish."
According to a paper written by professor Des Ball from the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre in Canberra, the Australian installation would provide a "critical element of future U.S. national ... missile defense systems." Satellites would look for telltale infrared radiation, indicating missile launches, and relay the data to Pine Gap as part of the U.S. Space-Based Infrared System.
Update: And another thing! How likely is it that a trucking company would allow a driver to continue on this trip? The company had been notified that driver is engaged highly suspicious behavior which the authorities have described as drug related, but it's all OK with them? In the real world, a new driver would have been sent in immediately. Semi trucks are expensive and so is liability insurance.