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United States v. Real Property Located in Orange

February 9, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REAL PROPERTY LOCATED IN ORANGE, CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANT. ELIZABETH LARA, ET AL., CLAIMANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Hon. Manuel L. Real United States District Judge

AND CONSOLIDATED ACTIONS

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Date: February 8, 2010 Time: 10:00 a.m.

Before the Honorable Manuel L. Real, United States District Judge Trial: None Set

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Plaintiff United States of America ("plaintiff" or "the government") initiated this action on October 4, 2006 by filing a complaint for Forfeiture alleging that the defendant property was used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate the commission of one or more violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841 and is, therefore, subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7).

2. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that the undisputed facts demonstrate that the defendant property is subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. § 881 (a)(7) as a matter of law.

3. This is a civil in rem forfeiture action pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(7). This Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1345 and 1355. Venue lies in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1355(b) and 1395.

4. The defendant real property (the "defendant property") is located in Orange, California. Verified Complaint ¶ 5.

5. Juan Contreras ("Contreras") and Mauricio Cortez ("Cortez") operated a narcotics trafficking organization from their residences in Orange, California, one of which is the defendant property. The two residences are next to each another and Cortez and Contreras used them as central distribution centers for narcotics trafficking. Contreras and Cortez worked both independently and together, providing each other with narcotics and supporting the other's activities. Verified Complaint ¶ 6.

6. In 2005 and 2006, Cortez, Contreras, and others, including Lourdes Contreras ("Lourdes"), Contreras's wife, conducted narcotics transactions at these two residences. During the investigation, controlled purchases were made at each of the residences. Further, federal agents monitoring Cortez's and Contreras's telephones intercepted numerous narcotics trafficking related calls that were made from and/or received at the residences. Verified Complaint ¶ 7.

7. During the course of the investigation, Orange Police Department ("OPD") identified a confidential source ("CS-1") who stated that he ws acquainted with Contreras and had been approached by Contreras to purchase and/or sell pound quantities of methamphetamine. Verified Complaint ¶ 8.

8. On June 16, 2005, CS-1 notified OPD that Contreras had approximately five pounds of crystal methamphetamine at the defendant property. CS-1 made a monitored telephone call to Contreras. CS-1 asked Contreras if he had the product. Contreras replied that he did and the price would be $3,700. CS-1 agreed with the price and told Contreras that he/she would be arriving shortly. Verified Complaint ¶ 9.

9. OPD provided CS-1 with an audio surveillance device and $3,700 for the purchase of the methamphetamine from Contreras. OPD established surveillance on the defendant property and watched CS-1 ride a bike to the residence. Verified Complaint ¶

10. 10. During the meeting, CS-1 and Contreras spoke in Spanish. CS-1 gave Contreras the $3,700, which Contreras counted and placed in $500 stacks. Contreras went into a bedroom toward the rear of the house and returned several minutes later with a large plastic baggie containing methamphetamine. Contreras asked CS-1 if it looked alright. CS-1 confirmed that he/she was satisfied with the quantity and quality. CS-1 took the product and left the defendant property. Verified Complaint ¶ 11.

11. CS-1 rode his/her bicycle to the designated meeting spot and, once inside the undercover car, handed investigators the backpack. Officers removed a clear freezer style baggie with a crystal substance inside. At OPD, the substance tested positive for methamphetamine. Verified Complaint ¶ 12.

12. On April 12, 2006, officers interviewed Wendy Ruiz following her arrest on April 9, 2006, for possession of methamphetamine. Ruiz stated that she had been buying drugs from Contreras on an almost daily basis for the last two years. She usually bought crystal methamphetamine or cocaine; on one occasion she purchased heroin. Ruiz most often bought crystal methamphetamine in either eight ball or ounce quantities, although in the past she had bought ...


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