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U.S. v. $1

September 26, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
V.
$1,231,349.68 IN FUNDS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS. MARIA AURORA SAMPEDRO AND LAURA VICTORIA SAMPEDRO, CLAIMANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on a petition for the release of seized property filed by claimants Maria Aurora Sampedro and Laura Victoria Sampedro. Plaintiff, the United States of America, has filed this action in rem to enforce provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(D), which allows for the forfeiture of proceeds traceable to bribery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201; mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341; and program fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666. Plaintiff also seeks to enforce the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A), providing for the forfeiture of any property involved in or traceable to a violation of the anti-money laundering provisions of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957. Upon consideration of the arguments of the United States and of claimants, the Court grants claimants petition in part and denies it in part.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

(i) one (1) 2000 Mercedes-Benz S500 automobile, bearing VIN
WDBNG75J3YAO52240 and Maryland tag GAJ-945, registered to Jose Maria Sampedro and Maria Aurora Sampredo;
(ii) one (1) 1999 Toyota RAV-4 automobile, bearing VIN JT3HP10V9X7134995 and Maryland tag M244 588, registered to Jose Maria Sampredo and Laura Victoria Sampredo; and
(iii) $59,666.32 in funds from Bank of America account #003930704392 held in the name of Maria Aurora Sampedro Special Account for A & H International ("A & H account").

Amended Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem ¶¶ 3(m), 3(n), 3(p). Claimants sent a letter to the FBI as authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 983(t) requesting the release of this property, but the FBI denied this request on July 12, 2001. Claimants therefore filed a petition under 18 U.S.C. § 983(f)(3) for the release of the property.

II. DISCUSSION

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 sets forth four factors that the Court should weigh in considering a petition for the release of seized property:

(A) [whether] the claimant has a possessory interest in the property;
(B) [whether] the claimant has sufficient ties to the community to provide assurance that the property will be available at the time of the trial;
(C) [whether] the continued possession by the Government pending the final disposition of forfeiture proceedings will cause substantial hardship to the claimant, such as preventing the functioning of a business, preventing an ...

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