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U.S. v. ALL FUNDS IN ACCOUNT NOS. 747.034/278

May 4, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jackson, District Judge.


Plaintiff United States brings this in rem proceeding pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) to effect the forfeiture of all funds in the three defendant bank accounts (totaling in the aggregate approximately $4.6 million) in Banco Espanol de Credito ("Banco Espanol"), a Spanish bank. The United States filed its original complaint on October 20, 1997 seeking forfeiture of account No. 747.034/278 (the "034 account") and amended the complaint in July, 1999, to seek forfeiture of accounts No. 747.009/278 (the "009 account") and No. 747.714/278 (the "714 account") as well. The funds in all three accounts were allegedly "furnished or intended to be furnished . . . in exchange for a controlled substance" or represented "proceeds traceable to such an exchange" or moneys "used or intended to be used to facilitate [a] violation of" the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). Specifically, the government contends that the funds represent proceeds from drug trafficking activities of one Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros ("Matta"), a notorious international drug trafficker from the early 1970s through 1988, involving thousands of kilos of cocaine and millions of dollars. According to documents received by the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") from Spanish authorities, Matta lived in Spain at various times during the 1980s. Matta was eventually convicted of three serious drug offenses in the Central District of California in 1990-91 and is presently serving three consecutive life sentences in a federal prison.

The adverse claimant to the funds in this proceeding is Nancy Marlene [Marlen] Vasquez-Martinez ("Vasquez"), Matta's wife. She answered the amended complaint and filed a claim of ownership on August 31, 1999, having previously answered the original complaint and claimed ownership of the 034 account in March, 1998.

Presently pending before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The parties have stipulated that the defendant funds in all three accounts are of forfeitable character under 21 U.S.C. § 886(a)(6), and that if this Court denies claimant's summary judgment motion, Vasquez consents to the entry of judgment dismissing all of her claims to the defendant property with prejudice.

The cross-motions for summary judgment essentially present two questions: does the Court have subject matter jurisdiction over the defendant bank accounts and was the action timely filed.


The government has submitted declarations from special agents of the DEA asserting that they are unaware of any evidence that Matta and / or Vasquez had or have any source of legitimate income not originally derived from drug activities that would generate the amount of money known to be in the three accounts.


The jurisdictional grant for forfeiture cases is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1355. In 1992, this statute was amended to unify the matters of jurisdiction, venue, and service of process in civil forfeiture cases so that the government would no longer have to file multiple forfeiture actions in different districts. As amended, 28 U.S.C. § 1355 now expressly provides for jurisdiction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

[w]henever property subject to forfeiture under the laws of the United States is located in a foreign country, or has been detained or seized pursuant to legal process or competent authority of a foreign government.

28 U.S.C. § 1355(b)(2). Section 1355(d) allows nationwide service of process, although it does not address service of process on property located in a foreign country.*fn1 The Court has found only two relevant cases concerning forfeiture of funds in foreign bank accounts under the 1992 amendments to § 1355: United States v. All Funds on Deposit in the Names of Meza, 63 F.3d 148 (2d Cir. 1995); and United States v. All Funds in "Anaya Trust" Account, No. C-95-0778, 1997 WL 578662, (N.D.Cal. Aug. 16, 1997).

the United Kingdom acted essentially as an agent of the United States for purposes of this forfeiture action. Every action of the British law enforcement officials has been in direct response to requests from federal authorities. Moreover, the government indicates that in at least two other separate proceedings, the United Kingdom has returned funds to the ...

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