Buried Treasure: How Smugglers Cleaned Their Cash on Disorganized Crime

Laundered dollars hanging on a rope

Rainbow Valentine, host of Disorganized Crime: Smuggler’s Daughter, told us in the first episode that her dad once buried half a million dollars in cash in their backyard, only to almost lose it when the yard was redone and he couldn’t figure out where he’d put it. In this episode, she dives deeper into the question of cash: when you’re making tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in smuggling deals, what do you do with the money? And how do you explain your income to the IRS? Because even if you escape detection during the deal, the tax man can sometimes find a way to bust you in the end. Her father, Walter, and mother, Taffy, tell us the many creative ways they found to save and clean their cash stash.

By the 1980s, Walter was smuggling 500 to 1,000 pounds of pot locally in Marin County, California, and one to two tons cross-country. His career was thriving, Rainbow says, “so there’s a s**tload of cash around all the time,” in garbage bags, safes, “bricks of hundreds,” and even rolls of quarters all around their house. Of course, Walter couldn’t just walk into the nearest Wells Fargo to make a deposit: “The smuggler’s bank is deep in the earth, called ‘savings and loam,’” Rainbow tells us. But after Walter misplaced his money in the backyard, he and Taffy came up with another solution: a safe built into a false floor under their sink in the bathroom. Unfortunately, the county installed high-pressure water lines one day, and Walter’s sink exploded. The safe was “swimming,” he cackles, the money soaked and water-logged. He and Taffy had to stuff it into socks and put it into the dryer to dry it out – a more literal laundering than they ever expected to do. 

Storage problems sometimes led to huge losses, too, Rainbow discovers, telling us stories about one woman who had $80,000 in cash in a garbage bag that her partner accidentally threw out, a guy with $50,000 in a briefcase that he left on top of his car, and another man whose father built a tennis court over his half-million-dollar stash. But storage was just one problem. The other problem was how to make it look as though they got their money from an honest living. Due to the Bank Secrecy Act, Walter “could never dive into traditional investments like CDs, stocks, bonds,” Rainbow points out. So what did they invest in? And why all the quarters? Find out on this episode of Disorganized Crime: Smuggler’s Daughter.

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