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United States of America v. One Hundred One Thousand and 00/100 ) Dollars ($101

August 12, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
ONE HUNDRED ONE THOUSAND AND 00/100 ) DOLLARS ($101,000.00) IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Gorman United States Magistrate Judge

E-FILED Friday, 12 August, 2011 11:36:18 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION AND ORDER

Now before the Court is the Motion to Compel (#10) filed by the United States. The claimants in this forfeiture action have filed their opposition to the motion to compel. As explained herein, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

In this action, the Unites States alleges that a traffic stop by law enforcement occurred on I-80 near Geneseo, Illinois, on January 23, 2010. The driver of the vehicle was Benjamin Bodhi Green, and the passenger was Green's wife, Ruby Rashall, both of California. Based on his observations at the scene, the police officer advised Green that he would be given a warning for failing to signal a lane change. The officer and Green went to the squad car. The officer requested a canine handler come to the scene.

Green was driving a rental car. He told the officer he had flown to New York to visit his aunt. He had rented the car in Manhattan on January 22 and was due to return it in San Francisco California on January 26. He said he and his wife were going to Park City, Utah to go skiing. The officer commented about the tight schedule and Green responded that he would just extend the rental or "get another one.".

When the canine handler arrived, he asked Green if there was anything that would cause the dog to alert on the car; Green answered no. When he was asked if there was more than $20,000 in the car, Green again said no, but very quietly. The question was repeated and the answer was that they had "a couple thousand dollars". When asked again if it was more than $20,000, he said no. Green responded that a search of the vehicle was "ok if it's necessary." The officer asked him to confirm that "it's okay if we do that?" and Green answered "yes."

The dog alerted on the driver's front door seam and the trunk area. The officer questioned Rashall about why the dog might have alerted on the car, and she responded that they had just returned from a month long trip to Spain and Morocco. When they arrived in New York, they had rented the car to drive to San Francisco. She also said that an uncle had recently died and left her antiques, which they had sold while in New York, but she could not recall the names of the stores and she had no receipts. She also mentioned that they were visiting an aunt in New York and intended to tour the national parks. She did not know how much money was in the car.

The search revealed a small amount of cannabis wrapped in clear plastic and inserted into a silver and gold women's bracelet. Also found were three Federal Express shipping envelops containing bundles of currency totaling $85,000 . In Rashall's brown suitcase another $16,000 in currency was found. Both Green and Rashall were arrested. After his arrest, Green identified the bracelet as Rashall's. He initially told the officers he wanted to cooperate and agreed to be interviewed. He admitted the currency in the luggage was his. But when questioned further, Green refused to claim the money and refused to answer questions about its origins. When asked about an uncle leaving him old jewelry, he denied knowing anything about it; he did not mention sellingantiques or receiving an inheritance.

The United States then filed this forfeiture action, alleging a reasonable belief that the currency was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance. The funds are therefore subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881(a)(6). Ruby Rashall and Benjamin Bodhi Green have each filed a verified claim (Doc. #6 and 7) to these funds. The claims are identical, stating that the claimant "claims an ownership and/or possessory interest in, and the right to exercise dominion and control over, all, or part of the defendant property herein."

The Government served Special Interrogatories on the Claimants. They responded with partial answers and with many objections. The Government has now moved to compel more complete answers to the Special Interrogatories.

CIVIL FORFEITURE GENERALLY

Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), "[a]ll moneys ... furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance [and] all proceeds traceable to such an exchange" are subject to civil forfeiture. Rules governing civil forfeiture proceedings are set out in 18 U.S.C. § 983 and in Admiralty and Maritime Supplemental Rule G . Under 18 U.S.C. § 983(1), where the government executes a seizure pursuant to a civil forfeiture statute such as 21 U.S.C. § 881, it must provide notice to interested parties. Any person claiming an interest in the seized property may file a claim with an appropriate official. 18 U.S.C. § 983(2). Where a claim has been filed, the government must commence a civil action in rem by filing a complaint for forfeiture in an appropriate court. Id. § 983(3)(A); Rule G(1), (2). Any person claiming an interest in the property may then contest the forfeiture by filing a claim in the court where the civil action is pending. 18 U.S.C. § 983(4); Rule G(5).

However, "[b]efore a claimant can contest a forfeiture, he must demonstrate standing." Mercado v. U.S. Customs Service, 873 F.2d 641, 644 (2d Cir.1989). Both Article III "case or controversy" standing and statutory standing ...


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