K-9 trained to detect large sums of cash begins service for Department of Public Safety

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Minnesota now has a money-sniffing K-9, which will be used to crack down on gambling rings and illegal alcohol sales.

Bia, a 1-year-old German shorthaired pointer imported from Hungary, began her duties at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety this week, working in the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division.

“Typically, special agents would have to go through every room of a house, finding currency that’s been hidden inside of furniture, floorboards and clothing,” said Bia’s handler, Special Agent Brad Rezny. “We’re not looking for a $20 bill sitting on a dresser. We’re looking for bulk cash. Bia is able to search a house or a car in a fraction of the time it would take a group of us to search that.”

DPS said it now the first local law enforcement agency in the state to have a K-9 dedicated to tracking down U.S. currency. They noted there is a money-sniffing dog at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but that is a federal government resource.

Bia did a demonstration for 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at its facility in Golden Valley Wednesday, tracking down a briefcase full of cash hidden in an office space. After exploring several cubicles, she found the bag in about 60 seconds.

DPS said Bia is specially trained to detect the scent of the cotton paper money is printed on, along with the smell of the ink on the bills.

“She will just plop down when she smells the money, when she knows the source of where the money is coming from,” Rezny said.

Rezny said the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division conducts many investigations into crimes involving bulk money, such as people selling alcohol without having the required license, illegal poker rings, illegal lottery operations and thefts of charitable gambling winnings from pull tabs or raffles.

He said people running these illegal enterprises rely on large sums of cash and will hide it in a variety of places.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety shared several photos with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS of recent cash seizures. One of the photos shows rolls of money amounting to $90,000 hidden in a broom handle. Another photo shows cash stashed in a false seat of a truck.

“People are creative,” said Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division Director Carla Cincotta. “And what we have seen is an increase in illegal gambling-related crimes.”

Cincotta said their new K-9 will go out on search warrants with special agents.

She believes Bia will help the agency crack more cases.

“We want to get the message out that these types of crimes don’t pay and we’re going recover the money and give it back to the lawful victims,” Cincotta said. “We want to move quickly, we want to move efficiently and Bia will help us do that.”

Rezny added, Bia can complete her search without destroying a scene.

“As a human, we would have to break open a floorboard or crack open a piece of furniture if we believe there was money in there,” Rezny said. “There’s also potentially stuff that we’re missing. Bia would be able to locate that faster and with more certainty. Ultimately, it leads to the seizure of that cash, which we use as evidence. It’s also defunding their illegal operation and getting restitution for victims of theft.”