It wasn't until a store manager and others helped a man round up money blowing around an auto parts store parking that something started to seem fishy.
"We were all joking with him, 'Where's the dye packs?"' said Amy McCaulley, manager of the AutoZone store in Boulder City, told the Las Vegas Sun for a Wednesday report.
She referred to devices that banks bundle with cash in a robbery to mark bills as stolen.
When the man gunned his Jeep Commander out of the AutoZone
parking lot without even a thank you, McCaulley noted the Arizona
license plate number and called authorities.
Boulder City police stopped the vehicle on U.S. 93 heading toward Hoover Dam, questioned the 49-year-old driver and a female passenger, and confiscated a stash of cash they found hidden in the
spare tire beneath the rear of the vehicle.
Police tallied the haul at $538,780.
"You got to love the criminal mind," Boulder City Police Chief Thomas Finn said of the Friday seizure, which investigators believe was drug proceeds. "Sometimes they make it easy."
Police did not release the names of the driver or passenger, both Mexican citizens whom authorities said were not arrested.
The man told officers he had no idea there was money in the spare tire
under the vehicle, which he said he and the passenger borrowed from
a Phoenix resident to go on vacation.
It was the second time in 10 weeks that police in the city about 30 miles east of Las Vegas have made a large seizure.
In October, officers confiscated 115 pounds of marijuana, worth more than $200,000, during a routine traffic stop.
Finn, who took over the 34-officer department two years ago, has made patrolling U.S. 93 a priority.
He also sent a group of officers to a class to learn to identify drug couriers.
He said the city of 15,500, now stands to gain a $400,000 windfall for crime fighting if the cash is deemed to have been drug proceeds.