When police collected all of the money from the purses, shoeboxes, and other nooks and crannies within Nicole Poillon’s Winona apartment, they initially tried counting it by hand, but quickly realized there was too much. It was at the bank, after the cash was calculated electronically, where they realized the total amount was over $53,000, which was a bit more than police expected from someone who was claiming government assistance in food stamps and housing aid at the time.
According to police records, Poillon was arrested in April of 2010 for selling more than 10 grams of cocaine on April 9, April 15, and April 16 to an undercover police informant. After Poillon was taken into custody, police searched her purse and found just over $8,000 in cash, $600 in buy money, a little under three grams of cocaine in a brown pill bottle, hydrocodone pills, credit and debit cards, and a Minnesota EBT card — electronic food stamps. Police went on to execute a search warrant inside her residence and found $11,400 in cash in one of her purses, approximately $32,000 in two cardboard boxes, and additional cash, which together totaled over $53,000. While executing the warrant and uncovering the cash, police learned from Poillon’s landlord that she was paying $1 per month in rent as a recipient of government housing assistance funds.
The court process and forfeiture process dragged on, and three months ago, Poillon was ordered by Judge Nancy Buytendorp to forfeit the money, despite arguments by Poillon in which she claimed the money was from an inheritance and the sale of two cars. But according to court records, during a call from jail on April 17, 2010, Poillon stated that she thought she might be able to get the money back because “none of that money was marked; they can’t prove it was drug money,” investigators testified in January.
The forfeiture appears to be more than the city or county collects in a typical year. In 2011, the Winona County Sheriff’s Department reported a total of $11,302 in criminal forfeitures, while the Winona Police Department reported $7,878. The money brought in through criminal forfeitures is divided among law enforcement, prosecutors, and the state, depending on the offense. For most cases, 70 percent of the cash or items seized go to local law enforcement, 20 percent toward local prosecutors, and 10 percent to the state’s general fund.
As for the money forfeited through Poillon’s conviction, Buytendorp ordered that the money will go to the Winona Police Department.