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U.S. v. SIMS

January 25, 2001

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
V.
RUFUS SIMS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alesia, District Judge

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is defendant Rufus Sims's motion for return of property pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(e). For the following reasons, the court denies defendant's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 5, 1992, defendant Rufus Sims ("Sims") was charged with nineteen counts for various crimes relating to his drug and racketeering operations. Following a lengthy trial, a jury found Sims guilty of nine counts relating to money laundering and illegal structuring of financial transactions. Sims was found not guilty of eight more serious counts relating to drug conspiracy and possession, RICO, and assault in aid of the racketeering organization. At the government's request, two counts were dismissed. On December 20, 1995, the court sentenced Sims to a total of 327 months imprisonment, $500,000 in fines and $450 in special assessments. Sims appealed, arguing that his convictions should be reversed as a matter of law. The Seventh Circuit rejected Sims's arguments and affirmed Sims's conviction and sentence. United States v. Sims, 144 F.3d 1082, 1085 (7th Cir. 1998).

II. DISCUSSION

Sims has filed a motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(e), for return of property seized between 1988 and 1992. In his motion, Sims seeks the return of the following: (1) one 1987 Rolls Royce convertible; (2) one 1988 Mercedes; (3) one 1986 Corvette convertible; (4) one 1976 Cadillac El Dorado convertible; (5) one 1988 Cadillac Seville convertible; (6) one 1979 Lincoln limousine; (7) two 1986/87 Suzuki motorcycles; (8) one 1972 Cadillac sedan; (9) one man's full-length mink coat; (10) one man's full-length raccoon coat; (11) one man's fulllength beaver coat; (12) gold jewelry valued at approximately $200,000; (13) one 1986 Cadillac de Elegance; (14) one 1990 Chevrolet Camero convertible; (15) one 1986 Cadillac Coupe convertible; (16) one Suzuki Samurai; (17) one residential home on Boeger Avenue in Westchester, Illinois; (18) one residential home located on Royal Glen Court in Lisle, Illinois; (19) one ten-unit apartment building located on Austin Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois; (20) one commercial building located on Chicago Avenue in Chicago, Illinois; (21) cash in excess of $6.2 million dollars; (22) one 1989 BMW coupe; and (23) "miscellaneous personal property valued at approximately $100,000." (Def.'s Mot. at 2.)

In its response, the government argues that Sims's motion is time-barred and, in the alternative, that this court has no jurisdiction over Sims's claim once the administrative forfeiture proceedings were commenced. In reply, Sims claims that he did not receive notice of the forfeiture and, thus, the time did not toll until 1995 when Sims received notice through his attorney.*fn1 Further, Sims contends that this court retains jurisdiction because the property was subject to an on-going criminal proceeding. Finally, Sims argues that the lack of notice resulted in a violation of Sims's constitutional rights.

A. Jurisdiction

As the district court where Sims was tried, this court has jurisdiction over this collateral Rule 41(e) motion. Casas v. United States, 88 F. Supp.2d 858, 861 (N.D. Ill. 1999). While the court may not review the merits of the forfeiture, it does retain jurisdiction to consider the procedure by which the forfeiture was effected. See id. (citing Toure v. United States, 24 F.3d 444, 445-46 (2d Cir. 1994)). In this case, Sims claims that he did not receive notice of the forfeiture. This court, therefore, has jurisdiction to consider a claim that Sims's property was taken improperly — meaning without notice — by the government or by any United States agency. Polanco v. DEA, 158 F.3d 647, 651 (2d Cir. 1998).

Having determined that it has jurisdiction, the court will now address Sims's motion for return of property. The government argues that this motion is untimely because it was filed after the six-year statute of limitations had run. Sims, on the other hand, claims that his motion is not untimely because the statute did not accrue until 1995, following his acquittal on certain charges. Further, Sims claims that he did not receive notice of the forfeitures and, therefore, he is entitled to the return of the property.

B. Statute of Limitations for a Motion for Return of Property

A post-conviction Rule 41(e) motion is treated as a civil equitable proceeding for the return of the property. United States v. Taylor, 975 F.2d 402, 403 (7th Cir. 1992). Thus, under 28 U.S.C. § 2401, a civil action challenging this administrative forfeiture is subject to a six-year statute of limitations. 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a); United Sates v. Duke, 229 F.3d 627, 629 (7th Cir. 2000). In this case, the last of the property was seized in 1992. Further, all of the accounted-for property was forfeited by June of 1992. Thus, the government argues that this motion — first filed in November of 1999 — is untimely. However, Sims claims that he did not receive notice and, therefore, his claim did not accrue until he knew or should have known of this injury — which was in 1995, after his lawyer told him of the forfeited property. The issue, therefore, is when the statute of limitations began to run.

The court agrees with the government that a Rule 41(e) motion is subject to a six year statute of limitations. See Taylor, 975 F.2d at 403. However, some of the property Sims seeks to have returned was civilly forfeited and, therefore, Rule 41(e) may not be appropriate. See infra Sect. I.A.1. Further, some of the property was administratively forfeited, with declarations of forfeiture attached to the government's brief, while the remaining property Sims seeks to have returned does not have any order ...


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