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UNITED STATES v. PARCEL I

February 7, 1990

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PARCEL I, BEGINNING AT A STAKE, ETC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOREMAN

 JAMES L. FOREMAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This matter is before the Court on the claimants' Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively to Transfer and their Motion to Quash Warrant of Arrest or Alternatively Return of Seized Property. As a preliminary matter, this Court GRANTS claimant's Motion to Consolidate in United States v. Selmar, Tenn. Property, 89-4222 (Document No. 14).

 I. FACTS

 The claimants in these consolidated cases are Norma D. Surratt, Bobby Surratt, Ronald J. Surratt and Norman H. Louisan. All are related, directly or as an in-law, to Harley G. Surratt. Harley Surratt is a convicted drug conspirator, who was involved in what is commonly termed the Lanier drug conspiracy. Surratt contributed to the extravagant success of that conspiracy by providing semi-tractors, trailers, and drivers to transport tons of marijuana across the United States. Surratt also occasionally drove the trucks himself to transport both marijuana and drug money. He also drove drug kingpin, Randy Lanier, to Pennsylvania at a time when Lanier was a federal fugitive attempting to evade prosecution. Harley Surratt was handsomely compensated for his crimes.

 The government contends that Surratt attempted to "launder" his drug money by purchasing real estate, businesses and chattels in his relatives' names. Specifically, the government contends that Surratt financed the purchases of the following: (1) a 64.54-acre farm, including a farmhouse and various improvements and equipment, which is in the name of claimant Bobby Surratt, (2) a one-acre tract of land, upon which Harley and claimant Norma Surratt built a house, (3) a 1986 Fleetwood mobile home which is now in the name of claimant Norman Louisan, (4) the business, accounts and chattels of Surratt Trucking Company, which are now in the names of Ronald and Norma Surratt, (5) various semi-tractors and trailers, and (6) the real estate and business comprising the Selmar, Tennessee, NAPA Auto Parts store, which is in the name of Bobby Surratt. The government further contends that the auto parts store was used to facilitate drug activity in that Harley Surratt used it to further launder his drug money.

 The claimants maintain, however, that the property which the government is seeking to forfeit is their own property, untainted by Harley Surratt's ill-gotten gains, and that the government acted illegally in seizing it. Specifically, in their Motion to Quash, the claimants allege that they were given no pre-seizure hearing to contest the government's contention that the property, ostensibly in their names, was actually the property of Harley Surratt. They also argue that all of the property and claimants in these actions are located in Tennessee, and thus a Court sitting in the Southern District of Illinois may not exercise jurisdiction over the property which is the subject of this dispute.

 In their Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively to Transfer, the claimants once again argue that this court lacks in rem jurisdiction. They further contend that: (1) this Court lacks in personam jurisdiction, (2) venue is improper in the Southern District of Illinois, (3) service of process with respect to claimants Norma Surratt, Norman Louisan and Bobby Surratt was improper, and (4) claimant Ronald Surratt was not served with process.

 II. ANALYSIS

 A. Jurisdiction

 
(a) The following shall be subject to forfeiture to the United States and no property rights shall exist in them:
 
(6) all monies, negotiable instruments, securities, or other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance in violation of this subchapter, [and] all proceeds traceable to such exchange[.]
 
(7) all real property . . . and any . . . improvements . . . which is used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, a violation of this title ...

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