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Registered: 07/26/04
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Search for pot yields 3.6 million nickels
    #3735480 - 02/05/05 04:12 PM (16 years, 4 months ago)

3 million stolen nickels unearthed in back yard
February 5 2005

Police officers on Friday dug up some unusual backyard buried treasure -- about three million stolen nickels that never made it to the Federal Reserve in New Orleans.

Miami-Dade police came across the nicked nickels, worth about $180,000, at a home in the Redlands area of southwest Miami-Dade. They were still in Federal Reserve bags, in a wooden box covered with a thick plastic tarp and buried about four feet deep.

"We think most of them are there," said Judy Orihuela, spokeswoman for the FBI, which is investigating the theft. "There's probably going to be a few missing."

The nickel caper began on Dec. 17 when truck driver Angel Ricardo Mendoza picked up the coins at the Federal Reserve facility in New Jersey.

Mendoza, who worked for a private trucking contractor, vanished, as did the 45,000 pounds of silvery loot. A few days later, the truck and trailer turned up at a Fort Pierce truck stop, but he and the nickels were gone.

Friday morning, Miami-Dade police officers and DEA agents looking for a hydroponics lab at a home in southwest Miami-Dade, stumbled upon a cooler and a bucket full of nickels.

"That's what made the little light go off," Orihuela said.

Scanning the back yard with metal detectors, investigators found the entire load of nickels.

Friday afternoon, Federal Reserve officials arrived to figure out how to truck the coins out.

Each of the 900 or so bags weighs about 50 pounds.

"It's going to be a while," Orihuela said.

Also, detectives found 88 plants thought to be marijuana when they searched a smaller house on the property after they found no drugs in the main house, police said.

Police detained a renter on the property in connection with the marijuana, Orihuela said, but he had not been arrested as of Friday afternoon.

There was no sign of Mendoza, who is a suspect in the coin heist. Investigators think he may have left the country.

Orihuela said no one else at the home had been arrested as part of the nickel theft and it was not clear how the money got to the house.

The biggest mystery of all might be what someone does with that many nickels.

"That's the big question," Orihuela said. "You bury them in your back yard, I guess."

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore." - Yogi Berra

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