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United States v. One 2004 Case International Compact Tractor

August 3, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ONE 2004 CASE INTERNATIONAL COMPACT TRACTOR, MODEL D-35, SERIAL NO. HBA017288, ITS TOOLS AND APPURTENANCES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 8]

Presently before the Court is a motion for default judgment filed by the United States against one 2004 Case International Compact Tractor, Model D-35, Serial No. HBA017288, and its Tools and Appurtenances ("Defendant"). For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual History*fn1

On November 6, 2008, San Diego County Sheriff's Department ("SDSD") detectives served a search warrant at the property and residence located in the 37000 block of Regal Blue Trail in Anza, California ("the property"). The detectives served the warrant in furtherance of a criminal investigation into the commercial indoor marijuana cultivation operation then underway on the property.

The property is located in a rural area, and at the time of the search it included a residence ("the residence"). Two metal sheds were situated just north of the residence, one of which was tan in color ("tan shed"). Underneath the tan shed, the surface of the land had been graded, manipulated, and leveled to accommodate the structure. Inside the tan shed, the SDSD detectives discovered approximately 567 marijuana plants under cultivation as well as the indicators of an extensive and sophisticated commercial indoor marijuana growing operation: an extensive network of environmental control devices designed to support a large scale, indoor agricultural production effort; large industrial grow lights installed above the planting areas; operational automatic irrigation systems; an air conditioning system and complete duct network providing ventilation and cooling. Beside the tan shed, in a two-room cement block outbuilding, the detectives found a large diesel-powered electrical generator which provided the large amount of electricity to support the lighting, cooling, and irrigation systems of the marijuana growing operation.

Inside the residence, the detectives found and seized approximately 357 grams of high quality marijuana, scales used to weigh marijuana, a stock of marijuana seeds, marijuana pollen vials, a marijuana seed kit, concentrated cannabis, and a concentrated cannabis funnel. The detectives also found written records documenting marijuana sales, receipts for the purchase of marijuana cultivation and production supplies, and instructional literature relative to the cultivation of marijuana. Moreover, inside the residence detectives recovered documents indicating Travis Grant Ashbrook, Sr. (" Ashbrook, Sr.") resided there.

Detectives also searched the home of Travis Grant Ashbrook, Jr. ("Ashbrook, Jr."), the adult son of Ashbrook, Sr., located in the 56000 block of Mitchell Road in Anza, California. Inside the Ashbrook, Jr. residence, the detectives located and seized over 11 pounds of concentrated cannabis and written records documenting marijuana sales.

The detectives advised Ashbrook, Sr. of his Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and to counsel. He waived his rights and agreed to be interviewed by detectives. He admitted operating the indoor marijuana growing operation in the tan shed for the past three years, and stated he and his son had used Defendant tractor to grade a portion of the property. After the grading was completed, Ashbrook, Jr. built the tan shed upon the level land. Ashbrook, Sr. stated he had invested approximately $100,000.00 to build and equip the shed for commercial indoor marijuana production, and that he and his son were partners in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

B. Procedural History

On April 6, 2009, the United States filed a complaint for forfeiture against Defendant. (Doc. No. 1.) On April 15, 2009, an a United States Marshal seized, arrested, and took possession Defendant pursuant to the Court's April 6, 2009 Order appointing the United States Marshal as Defendant's custodian. (Doc. No. 3; Memo. ISO Motion at 2.) On April 7, 2009 the United States served a notice of complaint and a copy of the complaint for forfeiture upon Ashbrook, Sr. and Ashbrook, Jr. by certified mail. (Memo. ISO Motion at 2.) Neither individual filed a claim or an answer to the complaint. (Id.) On April 7, 2009, notice of the civil forfeiture action was posted on an official government website, www. forfeiture.gov, for at least 30 consecutive days, and on May 6, 2009, a declaration of publication was issued.

On June 10, 2009, the United States requested the Clerk of Court to enter default against Defendant; the Clerk entered default on June 10, 2009. (Doc. Nos. 6, 7.) On June 16, 2009 the United States served and filed this motion for default judgment. (Doc. No. 8.) Neither Ashbrook, Sr. nor Ashbrook, Jr. have filed an opposition to the motion. The Court finds the matter fully briefed and appropriate for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(1).

DISCUSSION

A. Legal ...


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