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United States v. 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4wd Pickup

April 1, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
2002 CHEVROLET AVALANCHE 1500 4WD PICKUP, VIN #GNEK13T02G255488 AND FOUR THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED FIFTEEN ($4,815.00) DOLLARS IN U.S. CURRENCY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment [#16] is GRANTED.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Forfeiture proceedings are governed, in part, by 21 U.S.C. § 881(b), the Supplemental Rules of Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to Rule C(6)(a)(i)(A) of the Supplemental Rules:

[A] person who asserts an interest in or right against the property that is the subject of the action must file a verified statement identifying the interest or right . . . within 30 days after the earlier of (1) the date of service of the Government's complaint or (2) completed publication of notice under Rule C(4).

The verified claim states the claimant's interest in the property, by virtue of which the claimant demands restitution and the right to defend the action. United States v. United States Currency in the amount of $2,857.00, 754 F.2d 208, 212-13 (7th Cir. 1984). If the procedural requirements of Rule C(6)(a)(i)(A) are not met, the claimant lacks standing to defend and contest the forfeiture. Id.; United States v Commodity Account No. 549 54930 at Saul Stone & Company, 219 F.3d 595, 598 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that strict compliance with the rules is required to establish standing).

Here, Anton Hall has filed a claim to the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4WD pickup, VIN # 3GNEK13T02G255488 (the "Avalanche") and the currency. Harris N.A., f/k/a Harris Bank Barrington, N.A. ("Harris"), has also filed a claim to the Chevrolet Avalanche, and the Government acknowledges Harris' perfected security interest in the vehicle.

On February 20, 2009, the Government filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Neither claimant has responded to the Motion, and the time for doing so has expired. Accordingly, the Court deems the Motion to be unopposed, and this Order follows.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 25, 2006, Renee Hannah ("Hannah") was arrested while delivering crack cocaine to Steven Brock ("Brock"), a Morton Police Officer assigned to the Peoria MEG Unit, who was acting as an undercover agent. Hannah had sold crack cocaine to Brock on six occasions during September and October 2006 and after waiving her Miranda rights, identified Anton Hall ("Hall") and Luella Crayton ("Crayton") as her cocaine suppliers. Hannah further stated that at times, Hall drove his orange Chevy Avalanche to meet her to deliver the cocaine. Hannah agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and arranged a controlled buy of crack cocaine. Hall agreed to sell the crack cocaine to Hannah, and Crayton agreed to deliver it. Crayton was arrested when she met Hannah to make the delivery, and Hall was arrested as he was leaving the parking lot of a gym. Hall had $815.00 in U.S. Currency on his person and another $4,000.00 packaged in thousand dollar increments in his gym bag.

A search warrant was executed that same day at the residence of Hall and Crayton, and items were seized including: 74 grams of crack cocaine in plastic bags, a WD-40 Hide a Can, a total of 30.04 grams of cannabis, a digital scale, a Nextel cell phone, and $650.00 in U.S. Currency. Crayton stated that the currency in Hall's possession was from the sale of drugs, including $2,000.00 he received for a drug transaction that afternoon at their residence. Crayton further informed law enforcement that Hall told her that he was meeting another individual at the gym that afternoon to collect another $2,000.00 that was owed to him for drug sales.

Hall and Crayton were indicted and charged with possession with intent to distribute over 50 grams of crack cocaine. They both pled guilty. Hall admitted that he had arranged to sell the crack cocaine to Hannah and that the drugs found during the search of his residence were his.

The Avalanche is titled to Hall and is subject to a security interest in favor of Harris. Hall purchased the Avalanche on February 26, 2003, making periodic payments through October 16, 2006. According to Hall's Revised Presentence Report, Hall reported no earnings for 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006 and was unemployed at the time of his arrest. Crayton has submitted an affidavit in which she states that Hall was unemployed with no legitimate source of income from which to make car payments and that the source of funds for his car payments was drug proceeds. (Crayton Aff. at ¶¶ 4-5) Hall used the Avalanche and another vehicle he owned to deliver drugs, collect money owed from drug sales, and pick-up drugs from his source in Chicago. (Crayton Aff. at ¶ ...


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