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United States v. $47

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 9, 2019

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

          ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is the Government's Motion to Dismiss Jessica Stringer's Motion for Interest in Forfeiture, filed August 29, 2019. (ECF No. 26). The Court finds that Jessica Stringer lacks both Article III and statutory standing to contest the forfeiture. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the Government's Motion to Dismiss (construed as a motion to strike) and STRIKES Stringer's Motion for Interest in Forfeiture (construed as a claim for assets).

         II. PROCEDURAL & FACTUAL HISTORY

         In May 2019, 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. (ECF No. 1).

         In July, Jessica Stringer filed a Motion for Interest in Forfeiture in the form of a remission petition. (ECF No. 8). In the space provided to “explain why [she has] a valid, good faith, and legally recognizable interest in the asset(s) as an owner, ” Stringer stated that she is “a beneficial owner to asset [sic] in this petition.” She also checked a box asserting that she is an “innocent owner” to the seized assets. In the space provided for explaining the reason for the filing, she stated the following:

My family has suffered in the previous 7 years, due to an extramarital affair w/ individuals in Georgia. My mother (Christine Goldberg) was left penniless.
. . .
Any and all granted petitions to myself will be used to help mentor youth give back to the community for which it was forfeited from.

         No other filing on the record references Stringer or Goldberg.

         In August, the Government filed a Motion to Dismiss Jessica Stringer's Motion for Interest in Forfeiture. (ECF No. 26). Stringer did not respond, nor did she attend the discovery conference.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that Stringer made several similar filings in United States District Courts across the country. See, e.g., In re 8 Pieces of Assorted Jewelry, No. 19-CV- 01439, ECF No. 7 (D. Co. May 21, 2019) (asserting that she is a beneficial owner because she is “in school [and] could benefit using assets to [her] advantage in education”) (under consideration); In re 204 Thor Majestic 28A Motorhome 1FDXE4FS2DDA31230, No. 19-CV-01401, ECF No. 15 (D. Co. May 16, 2019) (asserting the same) (filed after the case was closed); In re $9, 017.69 in U.S. Currency, No. 16-CV-00705, ECF No. 26 (D. Co. Mar. 25, 2016) (asserting that she is a beneficial owner because she “desire[s] to be a recipient of the assets . . . [d]ue to being adversely affected by the behavior of the prior owner and those w/similar actions”) (Government motioned to dismiss); In re $12, 929.29, No. 19-CV-02084, ECF Nos. 5-6 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 8, 2019) (asserting the same) (court struck from the record). Several of the filings were dated June 27, 2019: the same date as Stringer's filing here.

         The Court construes Stringer's motion-submitted in the form of a remission petition-as a claim for assets. Those with “an interest in the defendant property may contest the forfeiture by filing a claim in the court where the action is pending.” Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. R. G(5)(a). Claims need not be made in any particular form. Here, Stringer filled out the section of the remission petition entitled, “INTEREST IN PROPERTY.” She also checked a box asserting the innocent-owner defense. See 18 U.S.C. § 983(d) (referring to those asserting the defense as “claimants”). And ...


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