The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Mendez United States District Judge
ORDER FURTHER PROCEEDINGS AND STIPULATION TO STAY
Plaintiff United States of America, and Claimants Adib Sirope and Rimoun Mansour (hereafter collectively "Claimants"), 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 further proceedings for an additional six months pending the outcome of a related criminal investigation against claimants. The stay currently in effect expires February 1, 2010.
1. Claimants filed a claim to the defendant property on February 17, 2009, and filed an Answer to the complaint on March 9, 2009.
2. The stay is requested pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2). The plaintiff contends that claimants and others conspired to defraud the California Board of Equalization out of excise taxes due on the sale of tobacco products in California. The plaintiff alleges that the U.S. mail and interstate communications systems were used to perpetrate the fraud. Claimants deny these allegations.
3. To date claimants, the owners of the property, have not been charged with any criminal offense by state, local, or federal authorities, and the statute of limitations has not expired on potential criminal charges relating to the fraud scheme. Nevertheless, the plaintiff intends to depose claimants regarding their claim to the defendant property, their operation of Pay-Less Wholesale Tobacco, and their business dealings with others in the tobacco industry. 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 claim to the defendant property, or waiving their Fifth Amendment right and submitting to a deposition and potentially incriminating themselves. If either person invokes his Fifth Amendment right, 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 the law enforcement agents involved in this investigation. Allowing depositions of the law enforcement officers at this time would adversely affect the ability of federal authorities to investigate the underlying criminal conduct.
5. The parties recognize that proceeding with this action at this time has potential adverse affects on the investigation of the underlying criminal conduct and/or upon claimants' ability to prove their claim to the property and assert any defenses to forfeiture. For these reasons, the parties jointly request that this matter be stayed for an additional six months. 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.
BENJAMIN B. WAGNER United States Attorney KRISTIN S. DOOR Assistant U.S. Attorney Attorneys for Plaintiff United States of America
GERAGOS & GERAGOS MARK J. GERAGOS Attorneys for claimants Adib Sirope and Rimoun Mansour
For the reasons set forth above, this matter is stayed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2) for an additional six months. On or before August 1, 2010, the parties will advise the court whether a further stay is necessary.