State troopers seize millions from two women stopped on I-55-70

Francisca B. Encinas
Francisca B. Encinas

State troopers found $2.4 million in cash hidden in an SUV stopped on Interstate 55-70 in Collinsville and prosecutors have begun the process to turn over most of the money to Illinois State Police and the Madison County State’s Attorney.

Two women from Arizona, Yesenia A. Guillen, 38, and Francisca B. Encinas, 42, were arrested on Sept. 4 and charged with money laundering. Guillen has been released while Encinas remained in jail on Friday.

A juvenile also was in the SUV.

This was a lot of cash.

Madison State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons

Guillen told police she was paid $15,000 to drive the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban from California to a hotel in Reading, Pa., and then return it to California. Guillen reported she paid Encinas $5,000 to accompany her.

Guillen told police that someone she did not identify took her SUV from the hotel parking lot in Reading and returned it four days later. She told police she was on her way back to California and was waiting for a call for instructions on where to take the SUV when she got pulled over for two traffic violations on I-55-70 near Illinois 157.

“This was a lot of cash,” Madison State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said. He said investigators had to spent hours counting the bills.

The money was stashed between interior panels and the body of the SUV.

Gibbons said Interstate 70 in Illinois is a well-known route for drug traffickers traveling across the country. He believes the amount of cash and drugs seized is “only a drop in the bucket” of what is actually hauled through Illinois.

“This continues unabated,” he said.

Gibbons said when police officers seize cash, the person who had the cash can go to a hearing to make a claim for it.

In this case, Guillen has waived her right to claim the money while arrangements are being made to get an interpreter to make sure Encinas understands the process.

If the money is not claimed by anyone after the forfeiture is advertised for three weeks, here is how the money is divided:

▪  The arresting agency gets 65 percent.

▪  Illinois State Police gets 10 percent of every seizure. So in this case, the Illinois State Police may get 75 percent of the $2.4 million.

▪  The local state’s attorney gets 12.5 percent and the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor gets 12.5 percent.