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United States v. $47

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$47, 000 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, and ONE 2017 TOYOTA TUNDRA, Defendants,
v.
WILLIAM LEE MANNS, Claimant.

          ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Government brought this civil forfeiture action after seizing a 2017 Toyota Tundra and $47, 000 from Claimant William Lee Manns pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 881(a)(4) and 881(a)(6), respectively. The Government contends that the property was used in connection with a controlled substance offense.

         Before the Court is Claimant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 15). Accepting all facts alleged in the Government's verified complaint as true, the Court DENIES Claimant's motion.

         II. PROCEDURAL & FACTUAL HISTORY

         According to the verified complaint and the attached declaration by Task Force Officer (“TFO”) Larry Brantley, TFOs Brantley and Kyle Waddington stopped Claimant on December 27, 2018, for improper lane usage on I-70 in Madison County, Illinois. (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). Claimant informed TFO Waddington that he was from California and was visiting his family in Maryland for the holidays. (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). He said he was in a hurry to get back to California but for no specific reason. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2). When asked about his travel dates, Claimant informed TFO Waddington that he left California “around Christmastime” and left Maryland “around Christmastime.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). Claimant's vehicle smelled of burnt marijuana. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2). Viewing these circumstances as suspicious, coupled with Claimant's five previous arrests for drug possession, “the TFOs believed that [Claimant] could be involved in criminal activity.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 2-3). Claimant denied having illicit drugs or large sums of currency in his vehicle and consented to a search. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3). In the passenger-side compartment, TFO Waddington “located a bundle of United States currency wrapped inside aluminum foil inside a backpack.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 3). When confronted with the finding, Claimant admitted that there was more cash located in a suitcase in the back seat. TFO Brantley located the suitcase and discovered “five aluminum foil bundles of United States currency” in the inner liner. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4). TFO Waddington gave Claimant a Miranda warning and arrested him. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4).

         On the way to the Fairview Heights DEA Office, Claimant revealed-unprompted-that the cash totaled $47, 000. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4). When asked how he received the money, Claimant stated that “multiple family members” gave him it to purchase “a plot of land for his family to have and to use for hunting and fishing.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 4).

         When Claimant arrived at the Fairview Heights DEA Office, he was reminded of his Miranda rights and was interviewed by Group Supervisor Robert Eisenbarger and Special Agent Jarret Neff. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5). Claimant stated that he left California on December 15, arrived in Maryland on December 19, and departed on December 26. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5). He further stated that the cash belonged to his stepfather. (ECF No. 1-1 at 6). Later in the interview, he “changed his statement and advised that the United States currency belonged only to him and not his stepfather.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 6). Claimant was also observed deleting text messages from his cell phone after consenting to a search. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). Shortly thereafter, Claimant requested a lawyer before answering any further questions, and the interview ended. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7).

         After the interview, DEA Resident Agent in Charge Michael Rehg and IRS Special Agent Jason Bamvakais conducted a phone interview with Claimant's stepfather. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). He stated that Claimant arrived at his home in Maryland on December 22 and left the following day. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). The stepfather also stated that he loaned Claimant $500 to get back to California because Claimant told him that he lost his wallet, and that was the last time they saw one another. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). He denied giving Claimant $47, 000 and stated that there was “no way” either he or his wife had “that type of money” to give. (ECF No. 1-1 at 8).

         Later that day, TFOs Brantley and Waddington enlisted Caseyville Police Department K9 Officer Cody Wiley to conduct a sniff on the seized cash. (ECF No. 1-1 at 8). A sample was placed in a clean, unused paper bag and set alongside three other bags. (ECF No. 1-1 at 8). K9 Officer Wiley “appeared distracted and not focused on the sniff, ” and he was not alerted to the seized cash. (ECF No. 1-1 at 8). The next day, Madison County K9 Deputy Kyle Doolen performed a new sniff and was immediately alerted to the seized cash. (ECF No. 1-1 at 8-9).

         The Government launched this civil forfeiture action on May 28, 2019. It alleges that the seized 2017 Toyota Tundra and $47, 000 were used in connection with a controlled substance offense, violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 881(a)(4) and 881(a)(6), respectively. (ECF No. 1). Claimant answered the complaint, (ECF No. 14), and filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (ECF No. 15).

         III. JURISDICTION

         The Court has original jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1345 (proceeding commenced by the United states) and 1355(b)(1) (civil asset forfeiture proceeding brought under an Act of Congress). Venue is proper in the Southern District of Illinois because the ...


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