A man stole $145,000 in cash from a marijuana money courier’s unmarked van at a Santa Ana gas station after the driver collected the proceeds from several dispensaries, authorities said Friday.
Because the U.S. government still outlaws marijuana, even in states where it’s legal such as California, it is mostly an all-cash business because of federal banking laws.
Santa Ana police released surveillance footage from the gas station and asked for the public’s help to identify the suspect.
After the courier had walked into the gas station, the thief smashed the van’s passenger window with an object and grabbed two satchels full of cash from the center console area, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
The man then got back into a Nissan Pathfinder’s passenger seat and the vehicle drove away.
Bertagna said the van was locked, but he didn’t know if it had a safe inside or had reinforced glass or other security features.
“If it’s reinforced, it didn’t work very well,” he said.
Detectives do not believe the courier, who had done pickups in Los Angeles and Santa Ana before refueling, was involved in the crime, the corporal said. He did not know which company employs the courier.
“He could have been followed from L.A.,” Bertagna said. “Do they know his routine? There are a lot of open questions. It appears they were looking for an opportunity, and they did it in a matter of seconds.”
The Pathfinder had been parked at a gas pump, but the thieves never filled up before stealing the money, Bertagna said.
“It’s quite apparent they knew what they were doing and how they were going to do it,” he said.
Santa Ana police typically get reports of dispensaries being burglarized for cash, Bertagna said. He did not know of any cases in Santa Ana where a courier had cash stolen from a van.
Authorities will be looking into whether similar crimes have occurred elsewhere in the region, Bertagna said.