Petrozza makes a great effort to argue that it was not determined in the criminal proceedings before Judge Plunkett whether any of the illegal transactions occurred inside of his home. Moreover, Petrozza argues that such a determination was not necessary to the entering of a guilty plea. Therefore, Petrozza argues that the four factors required for the application of collateral estoppel have not been satisfied.
Although Petrozza has made a valid argument on this point, it is not dispositive to this summary judgment motion. Even if Avery never delivered the cocaine to Petrozza inside his home, there may still be a sufficient nexus to the property to warrant forfeiture under § 881. The property can be said to have facilitated the distribution of cocaine pursuant to § 881(a)(7) if the government can show that the use of the property was more than merely "incidental" or "fortuitous" to the transactions. United States v. 916 Douglas Avenue, 903 F.2d 490, 494 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, U.S. , 111 S. Ct. 1090, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1194 (1991). No substantial connection is required. Id. at 492. All that is necessary is that the property was used "in any manner or part to commit or to facilitate the commission of a drug related offense. Id. at 494 (emphasis in original).
The language of § 881 is clear, straightforward, and unambiguous. 903 F.2d at 492. Property can "facilitate" a crime when it makes the crime less difficult or when it decreases the labor involved in handling illegal substances. See United States v. Schifferli, 895 F.2d 987, 990 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoted with approval in 916 Douglas Avenue, 903 F.2d at 494); United States v. One 1980 Bertram 58' Motor Yacht, 876 F.2d 884, 887 n. 3 (11th Cir. 1989).
We find that the government has met its burden of showing that the nexus between the property and the drug transactions was more than incidental or fortuitous, and that therefore the property was used to facilitate the cocaine distribution. Furthermore, there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding any of the facts upon which we base our finding. Petrozza has admitted and testified under oath that he received cocaine from Avery on the street in front of his residence during at least half of the transactions. He further admitted that these transactions occurred on an average of twice per month for a period of two years. These facts are undisputed. Using these undisputed figures, Petrozza received cocaine from Avery in front of 10652 South Laramie approximately twenty-five times.
In United States v. 916 Douglas Avenue, supra, the Seventh Circuit upheld our ruling that two telephone calls which the claimant received at his residence regarding a cocaine purchase constituted a nexus sufficient to subject the home to the forfeiture provisions. Certainly the twenty-five transactions which Petrozza made in front of his home constitute a connection as great as two phone calls. Moreover, Petrozza admitted at the plea hearing that Avery would call him to discuss acquiring the cocaine. In addition, conducting the drug transactions in front of Petrozza's home helped facilitate the crime. Using Petrozza's home offered Petrozza and Avery a convenient meeting place where Petrozza could quickly and easily store the drugs after the exchange. Conducting the transactions in front of Petrozza's home made the crime less difficult, and reduced the labor at handling the cocaine.
Under the controlling Seventh Circuit case law, as set forth in United States v. 916 Douglas Avenue, supra, the United States has demonstrated with undisputed evidence a sufficient nexus between the property and the illegal drug trafficking so as to warrant forfeiture under § 881(a)(7). Therefore, summary judgment is granted in favor of the United States.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
Dated: October 2, 1991
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