Crime

Florida cops found almost $400,000 in a murder victim’s hotel room. They’re calling dibs.

The Temple Terrace Police Department wants to seize nearly $400,000 in cash and 18 pounds of marijuana found in a room at the WoodSpring Suites in Temple Terrace, court records show. The room was rented by Omid Abdul Khaled, who was apparently shot to death in Tampa on Jan. 8.
The Temple Terrace Police Department wants to seize nearly $400,000 in cash and 18 pounds of marijuana found in a room at the WoodSpring Suites in Temple Terrace, court records show. The room was rented by Omid Abdul Khaled, who was apparently shot to death in Tampa on Jan. 8.

Police found a scene straight out of a movie when they opened the door to Room 407.

On the morning of Jan. 9, a worker at the WoodSpring Suites on Morris Bridge Road learned that a man staying there had been murdered. When the employee went to the room, she found pounds of pot and stacks of cash — a grand total of $388,190.

Now, the Temple Terrace Police Department wants to keep it all.

The events leading up to the discovery, as well as a detailed list of what investigators found, are outlined in a forfeiture petition the city filed Jan. 18 in Hillsborough County. Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime.

That morning, a woman who said she was a relative approached the hotel employee to report that the guest in Room 407 — 27-year-old Omid Abdul Khaled — had been murdered, according to an affidavit filed with the petition. The woman also said another family member staying with Khaled at the hotel might not have heard the news.

The employee went to the room and saw cash and plastic packages of pot scattered about. No one else was there. She closed the door and called police.

Temple Terrace police investigators arrived, secured a search warrant and documented what they found.

On the floor between the bed and desk were 14 plastic packages of a green, leafy substance that tested positive for marijuana, the affidavit says. The packages weighed a combined 14.6 pounds. Three similar packages totaling 3.2 pounds were found on the bathroom floor.

Under the kitchenette sink, investigators found a plastic bag containing 90 individually packed, one-gram containers of THC liquid derived from marijuana for use in vape pens.

Scattered throughout the room, detectives found stacks of cash in rubber bands totaling $369,998. Another $18,192 in loose bills was found in a drawer in the television stand.

Investigators also found a Royal Sovereign currency counter, a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, and a loaded Glock pistol that had been reported stolen in Tampa, the court documents say.

Temple Terrace spokeswoman Laurie Hayes referred questions about Khaled’s murder to the Tampa Police Department, the agency investigating the case. Hayes said Temple Terrace had no further comment on the forfeiture case.

Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty declined to provide details about Khaled’s murder. Hegarty cited a new state constitutional amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, that protects the privacy of crime victims and their families.

Khaled appears to be one of two people found dead in a car near Busch Gardens the night of Jan. 8.

According to information released by Tampa police at the time, a man and a woman were inside a moving car in the 8700 block of North Tangerine Place when shots were fired shortly before 11 p.m. Detectives said the car struck a home, causing minor structural damage. Both people died.

Marsy’s Law took effect that same day so Tampa police have not released the victims’ names, but police spokesman Eddy Durkin confirmed Thursday the department is not investigating any other homicides that occurred in the city on Jan. 8 or Jan. 9. Detectives still are investigating the double homicide on Tangerine Place.

State records show Khaled has an arrest history in Florida dating back to 2010 on charges including burglary, possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving without a valid license. His most recent arrest, on a charge of carrying a concealed firearm in Hillsborough County in 2017, was dropped, records show.

The Temple Terrace petition names three people who might contest the city’s effort to seize the items in the hotel room as illegal contraband under the state’s Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Two of the potential claimants could not be reached Thursday. The third did not immediately return a message left at a number listed for her. Their relationship to Khaled is unclear.

Seizing cash, cars and other goods through civil forfeiture can help boost the budgets of police departments large and small. In this case, the amount of cash found in the hotel room is a sum equal to about 4.5 percent of the Temple Terrace Police Department’s entire annual $8.7 million budget.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contribute to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.
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