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Police repaying missing money

The News Herald (Panama City, Florida), STATE AND REGIONAL NEWS
BYLINE: Andrew Gant, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Lynn Haven, FL

May 31 -- LYNN HAVEN -- A man cleared of a 2008 cocaine charge is being reimbursed for the cash police seized from his home and later lost from an evidence room.

Santiago Iglesias, now 61, had $8,410 reported confiscated in November 2008 when police arrested him on cocaine and other charges. About a year later, after prosecutors dropped the drug charge, a judge ordered the money returned.

Police could find only $5,490 of it and acknowledged $2,920 -- 29 $100 bills, three $5 bills and five $1 bills -- went missing.

On Sunday, attorney Bill Price, who has represented Iglesias in the past, said he has been informed he will be receiving a check this week on Iglesias' behalf. He also apparently will be getting a 50-piece set of chef's knives and a gun seized in the case.

Lynn Haven attorney Rob Jackson confirmed the check and property are on the way, as ordered.

The state Department of Law Enforcement's investigation into what happened remained "active and ongoing" Friday, according to department spokesman Mike Morrison.

Iglesias, living in a halfway house in Pensacola since his release from federal prison camp, was glad to hear of the reimbursement Sunday but said he still plans to file a civil rights violation in federal court. He said police actually seized even more cash from him than they recorded in inventory.

Iglesias first was released from prison in 2007 after serving time for a cocaine trafficking operation based in Colombia. He admitted to "doing the logistics for a drug operation" but said he never sold or dealt drugs himself.

When Lynn Haven police arrested him in 2008, he went back to prison on a violation of his supervised release.

Prosecutors dropped charges of cocaine possession and possession of forged identification, but a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge remained.

"The Lynn Haven Police Department, I think, has more credibility issues than I have at this point," Iglesias said when asked if he thinks people will believe him about the additional missing cash.

He said he "more than likely" will file a civil rights violation in federal court. Last Monday, he already had filed a motion to compel in the 14th Judicial Circuit, asking Circuit Judge Dedee Costello to hold the police department in contempt if he didn't get his property back.

Price, whom Iglesias said he fired earlier this month, indicated there is no way to prove anything else disappeared.

"I don't doubt that he's earnest, that there may be some items that they did not inventory," Price said, but unfortunately if those items were not inventoried by Lynn Haven, then nobody's going to know."

Fellow attorney Waylon Graham, who represents Sgt. Larry Thomas, the former police supervisor Iglesias has accused of involvement in the money's disappearance, repeated his earlier position on what happened: No one can tell.

"It was a loosey-goosey operation where they didn't have good controls," Graham said. "Who knows where the money is?"

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