Atlanta travelers say plain-clothed DEA agents seized their cash at the gate after they passed security check

Travelers at Atlanta airport have accused plain-clothed drug task force officers of conducting drug searches at airport gates and seizing wads of cash.

Atlanta travelers say plain-clothed DEA agents seized their cash at the gate after they passed security check

Travelers in Atlanta have accused plain-clothed drug task force officers of unfairly targeting them and seizing millions in cash, according to a local report.

Law enforcement in the task force, which includes U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Clayton County Police, walk gate to gate at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and, without warrants, search travelers bags for drugs, according to Atlanta News First. But the task force rarely finds drugs and instead seizes wads of cash without making arrests, the local outlet reported. 

"He just approached me and he asked me for my ID," Tabari Sturdivant, a film director, told Atlanta News First. "He didn’t state who he was. He just asked me for ID, and I thought he was a Delta agent. He had airport credentials on, and so I gave it to him immediately." 

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Atlanta News First published videos of plain-clothed officers conducting drug searches in the Atlanta airport. One shows a man in jeans and a backpack standing over a traveler unpacking his bag in front of a crowd at his gate. 

Sturdivant told Atlanta News First he was approached and searched before his flight to Los Angeles last year. He was unaware he was speaking with DEA agents. He said they asked him about drugs and cash as they searched his bag at the gate. He was eventually cleared and boarded his flight. 

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"'Are you high? Have you smoked? Do you have any drugs in this bag? Do you have any money?'" Sturdivant recalled the agents asking him.

If task force agents find cash, travelers may be forced to provide bank statements from their phones to prove the money isn't related to drug trafficking, according to Atlanta News First. 

Travelers can file a claim for the government to return their money, but it can be a timely and costly process. 

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Brian Moore, for example, was waiting for his Los Angeles-bound flight at the Atlanta airport in March 2021 when two women approached him and said they worked with the DEA. The musician was interrogated, and the DEA seized the $8,500 he was carrying to fund his first music video. He was never charged with a crime. 

"It was terrible, the worst experience of my life," Moore previously told Fox News. "They basically, in that one day, in those few minutes, ruined my entire music career."

After a yearlong legal battle, Moore got his money back. But the legal fees racked up to $15,000 — nearly double the amount taken from him. 

A Hollywood actor, Jean Elie, filmed two officers searching him on the jet bridge of his flight to Los Angeles in 2020. Two comedians, Eric André and Clayton English, had similar experiences and filed a lawsuit accusing the Clayton County officers of racial profiling. 

"See all those White folks, and I’m the random search," Elie said on the video while showing the line of passengers. 

Fox News reached out to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the DEA for comment but did not immediately receive a response. The Brookhaven Police Department declined to comment, deferring Fox News to the DEA and the Clayton County Police Department also declined to comment. 

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