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United States v. Funds From Prudential Securities

February 28, 2005

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FUNDS FROM PRUDENTIAL SECURITIES ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 54

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ANDDECREE FOR FORFEITURE

I. INTRODUCTION

This in rem civil forfeiture matter comes before the court on the United States's ("government" or "plaintiff") motion for summary judgment and decree for forfeiture.*fn1 On December 21, 2000, the plaintiff filed a verified complaint for forfeiture in rem for Latonya Curtis's ("claimant") funds seized in August 2000. Specifically, the plaintiff seized $41,059.86*fn2 in financial account funds and a $50.00 money order to enforce the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A). Because the plaintiff establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that claimant's financial account funds and money order are subject to civil forfeiture and the claimant fails to provide even a scintilla of evidence or allege specific facts that would enable a reasonable juror to find in her favor, the court grants the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and decree of forfeiture.

II. BACKGROUND

In or about 1996, a joint task force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated an investigation of a drug trafficking organization run principally by Earl Garner, Sr., the claimant's then-boyfriend. Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 13-14 ("Pl.'s Mot."). The investigation allegedly revealed that the claimant assisted Garner, Sr. in various aspects of his drug trafficking. Id. at 3. The claimant and Garner, Sr. lived together in an apartment in North Bethesda, Maryland. Id. A search of the claimant's apartment, in connection with a related criminal case, revealed $529,919.00 in cash stored throughout the apartment.*fn3 Id. at 24; Pl.'s Mot., Ex. VI-509-527. Despite the claimant's relationship with Garner, Sr., and the discovery of cash stored in the claimant's apartment, the claimant was acquitted of the criminal charges brought against her of conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine. Id. at 14; Cl.'s Opp'n at 3. The government nonetheless seeks funds it believes are subject to forfeiture as drug proceeds and laundered money pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A).

From 1998 to August 2000, a time in which the claimant and Garner, Sr. lived together, Pl's. Mot. at 22, the claimant maintained the defendant funds in bank and investment accounts in her name. Id. at 19-22.*fn4 The defendant funds consist of funds from Prudential Securities Account #0GS257128-06 valued at approximately $18,019.54 at the time of forfeiture ("Prudential Fund"), funds from Allfirst Bank Account #910334325 valued at approximately $13,500.54 at the time of forfeiture ("All First Fund 1"), funds from Strong Fund Accounts #0631201014490 and #0521201014454, together valued at approximately $6,453.16 at the time of forfeiture*fn5 ("Strong Funds"), funds from Allfirst Bank Account #536-8671-2 valued at approximately $3,086.62 at the time of forfeiture ("All First Fund 2"), and a $50 Global Express Money Order ("Money Order") (collectively, "defendant funds"). Pl.'s Mot. at 1-2.

The assets in the defendant funds, according to the financial records, consist of numerous cash and money order deposits. Id. All First Funds 1 and 2 consist of numerous large cash deposits of small denominations and occasionally, these deposits would occur multiple times per day. Id. at 19-20. The claimant opened Strong Fund with two Treasurer's checks worth $2,500 each, which the claimant obtained from her friend, Carrie Williams. Id. at 20. The assets in the Prudential Fund consist of five deposits of thirty-six money orders, totaling $19,200, made over the course of six months. Id. at 21. The overall 1998-2000 transactions in the defendant funds consisted of debits totaling $113,071.38 (withdrawals, credit card transactions, and written checks) and credits totaling $112,509.21 (deposits into the defendant funds). Id. at 30.

On December 21, 2000, the plaintiff filed a verified complaint for forfeiture in rem against the defendant funds. After five years of the plaintiff and claimant bitterly contesting the source of these funds, the plaintiff brings the instant motion for summary judgment and decree for forfeiture. The court now turns to that motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

A party against whom a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim is asserted may, at any time, move with or without supporting affidavits for a summary judgment in the party's favor as to all or any part thereof. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b). Summary judgment is appropriate when"the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are"material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A"genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than"the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party"fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at ...


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