© Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
In this image released by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in September 2013 and posted on their Facebook page, Sgt. Lee Dove poses with K-9 Zyla and $50,000 cash that was seized after a traffic stop for speeding.
A rural Nevada sheriff's deputy is accused of stopping travelers on a lonely stretch of U.S. Interstate 80 and confiscating tens of thousands of dollars for the county without bringing charges, according to two federal lawsuits.
Two men who were traveling alone through northern Nevada's high desert last year offer strikingly similar accounts of their stops by the same Humboldt County deputy near the town of Winnemucca, about 165 miles east of Reno.
Neither search produced drugs or an arrest, but in one case Deputy Lee Dove took a briefcase filled with $50,000 and in the other he seized $13,800 and a handgun, according to the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Reno.
Both men said they were told they'd be released with their vehicles only if they forfeited their cash.
"It's like Jesse James or Black Bart," said longtime Reno defense lawyer John Ohlson, who filed suit on behalf of Tan Nguyen, 37, of Newport, Calif.
The lawsuits say the cash seizures are part of a pattern of stopping drivers for speeding as a pretext for drug busts, which violates the Constitution. They say Dove, Sheriff Ed Kilgore, Humboldt County and its prosecutors condone the practice of seizing assets regardless of criminal prosecution.