United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
E. Shadid, Chief United States District Judge
Plaintiff in this civil forfeiture proceeding, the United
States of America, (“the Government”) asks the
Court to strike the Claimants', Citizen Financial, LLC
(Citizen), Yahya Sarsour, and Samar Soufan, Verified Claims
and Answers on file (D. 7, 8, 9, 10). (D. 17 at pg. 4). The
Government further requests that the Court enter default
directly. Id. at pg. 6. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court GRANTS the Government's Motion to Strike
and Motion for Entry of Default.
August 2015, the Government filed this civil forfeiture suit
against $65, 419.00, which was seized in March 2015, from
Sarsour during a traffic stop. (D. 1). The Government claims
the currency is traceable to illegal drug activity. A Warrant
in Rem was served upon the Defendant (D. 5), and the
Claimants filed Verified Claims For Seized Property. (D. 7,
8). The Government published a Notice of Action and Seizure
on the internet website, www.forfeiture.gov, last published
September 20, 2015. (D. 11). The Claimants' filed
Answers. (D. 9, 10). According to the Government, no other
potential claimants have filed Claims and Answers seeking to
defend the Defendant. (D. 17 at pg. 2).
October 2015, the Government propounded Special
Interrogatories upon the Claimants, pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure Rule G of the Supplemental Rules for
Admiralty or Maritime and Asset Forfeiture Claims.
Id. The answers were due October 28, 2015. In
December 2015, the Claimants provided the Government with
“partial” answers and documents via email.
Id. at pp. 2-3. The Government sent Supplemental
Special Interrogatories to the Claimants in June with answers
due on July 22, 2016. Id. at pg. 3. After an
extension was granted by the Court, the Claimants provided
answers in September 2016. Id. The Government found
the supplemental answers incomplete as well, and filed a
Motion to Compel (D. 16), which the Court subsequently
granted, giving the Claimants until July 17, 2017 to produce
responses to the requested discovery. (See the Court's
June 15, 2017 text order). The Court further warned the
Claimants that “[f]ailure to comply with this order may
result in entry of default judgment.” Id. The
Government filed the instant Motion on July 31, 2017.
governs statutory forfeiture actions in rem. Rule G(6)(a)
permits the Government to “serve special
interrogatories limited to the claimant's identity and
relationship to the defendant property without the
court's leave at any time after the claim is filed and
before discovery is closed.” Rule G(6)(b) requires that
answers or objections to interrogatories be served within 21
days of their receipt. See generally, U.S. v. All Funds
on Deposit with R.J. O'Brien & Associates, 783
F.3d 607, 618 (7th Cir. 2015).
Rule G(8)(c)(i)(A) permits the Government to move to strike a
claim or answer at any time before trial due to failure to
comply with Rule G(6). See U.S. v. $196, 969.00 U.S.
Currency, 719 F.3d 644, 647 (7th Cir. 2013) (noting that
the government can move to dismiss a claim where the claimant
is unresponsive to Rule G(6) interrogatories); U.S. v.
$4, 290.00 in U.S. Currency, No. 12-3141, 2014 WL
859561, at *4 (C.D. Ill. Mar. 5, 2014) (striking a claim for
failing to adequately respond to Rule G special
interrogatories and to comply with discovery orders and
requests). The purpose of Rule G(6) special interrogatories
“is to smoke out fraudulent claims-claims by persons
who have no colorable claims.” U.S. v. Funds in the
Amount of $574, 840, 719 F.3d 648, 650 (7th Cir. 2013).
The Advisory Committee Notes to Rule G(8) caution, however,
that a court “should strike a claim or answer only if
satisfied that an opportunity should not be afforded to cure
the Court's text order, commanding that the Claimants
respond to the Government's Special Interrogatories, they
have failed to provide the missing answers. The
Claimants' earlier participation in the proceedings,
including providing partial answers to the first two sets of
interrogatories, suggests that this failure does not stem
from lack of awareness or capacity. Rather, the
Claimants' silence appears to be a conscious decision.
Therefore, the Claimants' non-compliance with Rule G
procedure justifies STRIKING their Verified Claims (D. 7, 8)
and Answers (D. 9, 10) pursuant to Rule G(8)(c)(i)(A). The
Government's Motion to Strike is hereby GRANTED.
the Government's Motion for Entry of Default, the Court
is fully advised and finds that: (1) the Defendant and all
other potential claimants have been served or have waived
service of summons pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and Rule C(4) of the Supplemental Rules for
Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims; (2) Notice of Action
and Seizure has been published pursuant to an order of this
Court (D. 6); and (3) no claims or answers are currently
pending, and the time to file a claim or answer has expired.
the Government's Motion for Entry of Default is GRANTED.
Default is entered against the Defendant and all other
reasons stated above, the Government's Motion to Strike
the Claimants' Verified Claims (D. 7, 8) and Answers (D.
9, 10) is GRANTED. Documents 7, 8, 9, and 10, are hereby