CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Charlotte man had more than $33,000 in cash seized from him at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport after the money was tied to alleged drug trafficking, according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

Court documents state Kenneth Settle, of Charlotte, had $33,720 in cash seized while at the CLT Airport on Sept. 11, 2023, after a K-9 in the area alerted to a group of suitcases, with one belonging to Settle. Authorities at the airport observed the baggage tag, noting it belonged to Settle, and recognized his name from prior alleged trafficking activities, documents state.

Airport authorities reportedly spoke with Settle, who was planning to board a flight to San Jose, and said he was traveling to the area to buy sneakers for his business, Kays Kustoms LLC.

Court documents state that Settle was informed a K-9 had alerted on his suitcase, and Settle reportedly claimed there was $15,000 in cash in the suitcase, but no drugs. Settle gave permission for authorities to search his baggage where they found cash in his suitcase, shoulder bag, and more money hidden inside his clothing, shoes, and shaving kit.

Eventually, Settle admitted to traveling with more than $30,000 in cash, court documents said.

Following the discovery, a second K-9 was brought in, and the cash was placed into an independent blind lineup. The second K-9 also positively alerted to the odor of narcotics on the items seized from Settle that contained the cash, documents said.

Prior to the Sept. 2023 incident, documents state Settle was connected to two other drug-related incidents. In Oct. 2022, during an overnight package sort at a FedEx location in Pineville, NC, a suspicious-looking package was placed in a lineup.

According to court documents, a K-9 positively alerted on a package with the listed sender labeled as ‘Coleman, K&J Detailing LLC’ at Settle’s Charlotte address.

The package, however, reportedly did not come from Charlotte, NC, but from Hayward, California. Authorities were able to contact Settle regarding the package, and documents state he denied sending or expecting anything. Authorities searched the package and found 15 pounds of vacuum-sealed marijuana inside tupperware containers.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina

The other incident Settle had been previously connected to happened in June 2023 at the CLT Airport. Court documents state while luggage from a United Airlines flight from Denver, CO, was being loaded from a baggage cart to the baggage claim carousel, a K-9 alerted to the odor of drugs from a suitcase.

Documents state the baggage tag on the suitcase said it belonged to Juan Coleman, a listed ‘associate’ of Settle. Authorities at CLT Airport approached Coleman and Settle after watching them remove the suitcase from the baggage carousel. Settle reportedly admitted to having marijuana in one of the suitcases and ‘just gummies’ in another.

Upon searching the suitcases, authorities found roughly 16 pounds of marijuana in one of the suitcases, reportedly belonging to Coleman. Settle had about 22 pounds of vacuum-sealed marijuana in one suitcase and 22 pounds of edible mushrooms in the other, documents state.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina

Court authorities said, “Settle’s trips to California follow the well-established pattern of a drug trafficker transporting cash from the East Coast out to California to purchase narcotics, and then either shipping the narcotics back or transporting them via checked luggage on the return air travel.”

According to statements made in court filings, Settle is alleged to have traveled to California at least 14 times between Charlotte and the San Francisco/San Jose area from Sept. 2022 and June 2023.

During that time, documents state he has been found bringing narcotics back from the West Coast through the Charlotte airport, and has had FedEx shipments of narcotics addressed to him intercepted.

Court documents also question the claim that Settle’s sneaker business is legit stating, “There is little reason for Settle to store and then transport large sums in cash across the country, incurring even just the risk that his checked bag with $33,720 could have simply been lost by the airline in transit, when any cash needed could simply by withdrawn from bank locations there upon arrival.”

The seized cash remains within the Western District of North Carolina at this time.

“Based on the following facts, verified by the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, and Task Force Officer Stephen Brown, this action seeks the forfeiture of all right, title, and interest in the currency,” the January 2024 filed documents state.  

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