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Viola v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 14, 2019




         Incarcerated pro se Plaintiff Anthony L. Viola makes a clear request: show me the money. Or at least: show me where the money went. Convicted of wire fraud and ordered, along with several co-defendants, to pay restitution to assorted victims, Viola now seeks an accounting. As he and his co-defendants are jointly and severally liable, Viola wants to know what payments have been made and to whom. Plaintiff's claims hit several snags, however. For starters, he fails to show injury and thus lacks standing. His counts against each of the four Defendants also suffer substantive defects. As a result, the Court will dismiss the suit without prejudice.

         I. Background

         On April 1, 2011, Viola was convicted of wire fraud and related charges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. See ECF No. 12 (Fed. Def. MTD) at 2; see also United States v. Viola, 2011 WL 6749643, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 22, 2011). That court subsequently held him and five co-defendants jointly and severally liable for $2, 649, 865 in restitution to five victims of the fraud. See Fed. Def. MTD at 2; see also ECF No. 1 (Compl.), Attach. 1 at 1-6 (Restitution Order). Those victims included the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Argent Mortgage Company. See Restitution Order at 3. To execute the court's restitution order, the Bureau of Prisons has deducted between $25 and $50 from Viola's account every three months since September 2012. Id. at 8-10 (Inmate Financial Obligations); Fed. Def. MTD, Attach. 1 (Viola Payment History).

         Viola alleges that in January 2018, he requested that each of the payees provide a current balance of his outstanding restitution debt. See Compl. at 1. He claims that they either ignored him or failed to confirm receipt of restitution payments. Id. Viola further alleges that he requested from the court a “full accounting” of his payments, but that the court “refused to provide the information.” Id.

         Unhappy with his lack of progress, on October 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the FDIC, BOP, and Argent. Although he does not delineate specific causes of action, he principally invokes 18 U.S.C. § 3664, the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. Id. at 4. He seeks to obtain an accounting of his restitution payments, verification that his payments have reached the proper payees, and the amount remaining on all co-defendants' liability. Id. at 4-5. The three federal Defendants have now filed a collective Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Citigroup, Inc., as alleged successor to Argent, has filed a separate Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See ECF No. 13.

         II. Legal Standard

         In evaluating Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, the Court must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The Court need not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the Complaint. See Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citation omitted). For a complaint to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         The standard to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is less forgiving. Under this Rule, a plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear his claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). A court also has an “affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). For this reason, “‘the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987)).

         The Court is mindful that complaints filed by pro se claimants are held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). But “even a pro se complainant must plead ‘factual matter' that permits the court to infer ‘more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'” Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The Court therefore must dismiss a pro se complaint “where the plaintiff's complaint provides no factual or legal basis for the requested relief.” Strunk v. Obama, 880 F.Supp.2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         The Court, as it must, first considers Defendants' jurisdictional challenges, see Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 95 (1998), before exploring ...

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