The takeaway from this story: never consent to a warrantless search.
On April 15 a DEA agent boarded a passenger train in Albuquerque and began grilling people about where they were going and why. Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old black man, told the agent he was going to LA to make a music video. The agent asked Rivers if he could search his bags, and Rivers, bless his naive heart, consented. The agent didn't find drugs or weapons, but he found $16,000 in cash, so he took it, simply because a black man with that much money must be a drug dealer.
Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal writes,
Rivers was left penniless, his dream deferred.
"These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me," Rivers said in his email. "I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that."
Other travelers had witnessed what happened. One of them, a New Mexico man I've written about before but who asked that I not mention his name, provided a way for Rivers to get home, contacted attorneys – and me.
"He was literally like my guardian angel that came out of nowhere," Rivers said.
Joseph Rivers has a GoFundMe campaign to replace the $16,000.