The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Mendez United States District Judge
STIPULATION TO STAY FURTHER PROCEEDINGS AND ORDER
Plaintiff United States of America, and Claimants G&R Empire LLC; Raed "Roy" Mouri and Loudy Egho, as trustees of the MGM Trust dated May 16, 2005; George Bittar and Wanda Bittar, as trustees of the Bittar Family Trust dated December 23, 2003;(hereafter referred to collectively as "claimants") and Centennial Bank, by and through their respective counsel, hereby stipulate that a stay is necessary in the above-entitled action, and request that the Court enter an order staying all further proceedings for until September 4, 2009, due to an on-going criminal investigation against G&R Empire, LLC, Raed Mouri, and George Bittar.
1. Each of the claimants has filed a claim to the defendant property. Centennial Bank has filed a claim to the defendant property and an Answer to the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem. The remaining claimants have not yet filed their Answers and will not be required to do so until the stay contemplated by this stipulation expires.
2. The stay is requested pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2). The plaintiff contends that Raed Mouri and George Bittar and others were involved in a scheme to defraud the California Board of Equalization out of excise taxes due on the sale of tobacco products. The plaintiff further contends that proceeds of the fraud scheme are traceable to the real property that is the subject of this forfeiture actions. Raed Mouri and George Bittar deny these allegations.
3. To date no one has been charged with any criminal offense by state, local, or federal authorities, and it is the plaintiff's position that the statute of limitations has not expired on potential criminal charges relating to the fraud scheme. Nevertheless, the plaintiff intends to depose claimants Raed and Mouri regarding their claims, their ownership of G&R Empire, LLC, and their involvement in the sale of tobacco products into California. If discovery proceeds at this time, claimants will be placed in the difficult position of either invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and losing the ability to pursue their claims to the defendant real property, or waiving their Fifth Amendment rights and submitting to a deposition and potentially incriminating themselves. If they invoke their Fifth Amendment rights, the plaintiff will be deprived of the ability to explore the factual basis for the claims they filed with this court.
4. In addition, claimants intend to depose, among others, the agents involved with this investigation, including but not limited to the agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the California Board of Equalization. Allowing depositions of the law enforcement officers at this time would adversely affect the ability of the federal authorities to investigate the alleged underlying criminal conduct.
5. The parties recognize that proceeding with this action at this time has potential adverse effects on the investigation of the underlying criminal conduct and/or upon the claimants' ability to prove their claim to the property and to assert defenses to forfeiture. For these reasons, the parties jointly request that this matter be stayed until September 4, 2009.*fn1 At that time the parties will advise the court of the status of the criminal investigation, if any, and will advise the court whether a further stay is necessary.
6. While this case is stayed, claimants agree to keep current all payments due to Centennial Bank under the promissory note dated September 24, 2007, in the original principal amount of $2,225,000.00, and secured by the deed of trust recorded in Clark County, Nevada, on September 27, 2007, encumbering the defendant property.
7. In the event claimants default in their obligations to Centennial Bank, Centennial Bank and claimants agree to join any government motion for interlocutory sale of the defendant property. The term "default" shall mean any default under the note and deed of trust encumbering the defendant property and any other documents executed by claimants in connection therewith.
8. This stay shall not affect the obligation of Centennial Bank to respond to discovery requests served on it by plaintiff prior to the execution of this stipulation.
For the reasons set forth above, this matter is stayed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2) until September 4, 2009. On or before September 4, 2009, the parties will ...