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United States v. Forty-Eight Thousand

decided: April 18, 1983.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
FORTY-EIGHT THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS AND FORTY-TWO THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED THIRTY DEUTSCHE MARKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. JOHN WEED, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. No. 80 C 3930 -- George N. Leighton, Judge.

Pell and Bauer, Circuit Judges, and Gray, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Pell

PELL, Circuit Judge.

John Weed appeals from the district court's denial of his Rule 60(b) motion, Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), seeking to vacate a default judgment entered against him, pursuant to which he was ordered to forfeit $48,595.00 and 42,730 deutsche marks. The issue on appeal is whether the district judge abused his discretion in refusing to vacate the default judgment.

I. FACTS

John Weed and his brother, Leonard Weed, arrived at O'Hare Airport in Chicago on December 22, 1977. They were coming from Germany. Between them, they carried $48,595.00 and 42,730 deutsche marks.*fn1 The money was the property of John Weed and allegedly constituted his entire life's savings.

The brothers completed Customs Declaration Form 6059-B (8-23-74) which asked, among other questions:

10. Are you or anyone in your party carrying over $5,000.00 in coin, currency, or monetary instruments?

Allegedly because the brothers misunderstood this question to imply that it was illegal to carry over $5,000.00 upon entering the United States, they falsely answered "No" to the question.

It appears that they could not have been under this misapprehension a year later as the 1978 customs form, immediately following the above quoted question, specifically states:

NOTE: It is not illegal to transport over $5,000 in monetary instruments; however, it must be reported.

There is no indication that the funds here involved bore in any way the taint of illegality.

The Customs inspectors discovered the money. The brothers were interrogated. The currencies were counted and listed. John Weed confirmed the amount of money and his ownership thereof, as well as providing the other information required of one who transports greater than $5,000 into the country. See 31 U.S.C. § 1101(b) (1976) (recodified as 31 U.S.C.A. § 5316(b) (Supp. 1982).*fn2 The money was seized and both John and Leonard Weed were arrested. The brothers were indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (1976) which provides for anyone who "knowingly and willfully . . . makes false or fraudulent statements" in any matter within the jurisdiction of any United States department or agency to be fined and/or imprisoned.

After John Weed's release on a personal recognizance bond, he was permitted to travel to Germany. While there, he was arrested and incarcerated for a narcotics offense involving a substance that ...


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