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UNITED STATES v. $ 200

October 8, 1992

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$ 200,000, REPRESENTING THE CONTENTS OF A FIRST PENN-PACIFIC LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY ANNUITY ACCOUNT, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

 Plaintiff United States brings this forfeiture action against the defendant currency. Before us now is claimants' motion to change venue and plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, summary judgment. For the reasons below, we deny claimants' motion to change venue and we deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. *fn1"

 This is a forfeiture action brought against defendant currency in the amount of $ 200,000 ("$ 200,000"), representing the contents of a life insurance annuity contract. The claimants are Richard and Shirley Skarup ("Skarups"). They are residents of Arizona. The $ 200,000 is within the jurisdiction of this court and was seized within the Northern District of Illinois. Having been instilled with a "deep distrust of banking institutions," the Skarups over the course of their marriage had kept large amounts of currency at their residence.

 In late 1988, the claimants, apparently wanting to buy a house, found out they would not be permitted to make such a purchase in cash. When Shirley Skarup went to several Arizona banks with cash trying to obtain cashier's checks, she apparently found that banks had varying policies for issuing cashier's checks. *fn3" The Skarups purchased a residence in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a down payment of $ 20,000, in part composed of two cashier's checks for amounts under $ 10,000. The remaining balance was paid with approximately 36 cashier's checks in amounts under $ 10,000. All of these checks were purchased within a ten-day period.

 Soon after closing on the purchase of this house, the Skarups put the house back on the market and eventually sold it. The claimants received approximately $ 241,000.00 as net proceeds of the sale. With these proceeds, claimants purchased three certificates of deposit (CDs) at Valley National Bank. Two of these CDs were for $ 100,000 each. On or about March 7, 1991, the proceeds of these two CDs were transferred to a First Penn-Pacific Life Insurance Company account at the Valley National Bank. Later, the funds were transferred into an annuity account at First Penn-Pacific in the names of Richard and Shirley Skarup.

 Some time after the purchase and sale of the residence in Scottsdale, some of the currency that the Skarups kept in their home became water damaged. Shirley Skarup exchanged some of this currency at a bank. *fn4"

 The funds from the $ 200,000 annuity were seized on April 15, 1991, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. *fn5"

 Plaintiff claims that the seized currency is forfeitable to the United States under subsections (a)(1)(A) and (b)(2) of 18 U.S.C. § 981 (section 981). Under section 981, property involved in violations of 31 U.S.C. §§ 5313(a) and 5324 is forfeitable to the United States. Under these sections and the relevant regulations, financial institutions are required to file reports for transactions involving $ 10,000 or more in currency. It is also a violation to structure or attempt to structure transactions for the purpose of evading these reporting requirements. Claimants seek to transfer venue and deny that forfeiture is appropriate.

 I. Venue

 The Skarups point out that they and most of the witnesses are from the District of Arizona. Also, the acts involved in the alleged structuring of the transaction occurred in Arizona. As a result, the Skarups have moved for a transfer of venue to the District of Arizona, pursuant to either the Supplemental Rules of Admiralty and Maritime Claims or the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1404(b). Plaintiff responds simply that venue is proper here under 28 U.S.C. § 1395(b). We agree with plaintiff and therefore deny claimants' motion to transfer venue.

 28 U.S.C. § 1395(b) provides that a "civil proceeding for the forfeiture of property may be prosecuted in any district where such property is found." It is undisputed that the property, $ 200,000, was "found" and remains in the Northern District of Illinois. Without doubt, under section 1395(b), this district is a proper one for this proceeding. In fact, it is likely the only proper district. See United States v. United States Currency in Amount of $ 23,481.00, 740 F. Supp. 950, 953-54 (E.D.N.Y. 1990) ("Since the currency was 'found' in this district, the only district where venue is proper in this civil in rem forfeiture action against the United States currency is the Eastern District of New York.").

 Claimants cite to section 981(b)(2) in order to convince us to look to the venue provision of the Supplemental Rules for certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims (Supplemental Rules). *fn6" Claimants argue that because the issuance of process is governed by the Supplemental Rules, that we may also consider the venue provisions of those rules. Claimants cite no case law to ...


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