BENJAMIN B. WAGNER United States Attorney KEVIN KHASIGIAN Assistant United States Attorney 501 I Street, Suite 10-100 Sacramento, CA 95814 Telephone: (916)554-2723 Attorneys for the United States
STIPULATION FOR STAY OF FURTHER PROCEEDINGS AND ORDER [PROPOSED] DATE: N/A THERETO, TIME: N/A COURTROOM: #5, 14th Floor
The United States and claimant Jaime R. Serrano submit the following stipulation and request that the Court enter an order staying all further proceedings in this civil forfeiture action until the proceedings in the related criminal case, People v. Jaime R. Serrano, et al., now pending in Trinity County Superior Court, have concluded. The parties request this stay for the following reasons:
1. The parties request this stay pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2). The United States contends that the defendant real property was used to facilitate the cultivation of marijuana. During the execution of a state search warrant on April 14, 2010, law enforcement officers found approximately 2,203 marijuana plants being grown in a sophisticated indoor operation. The details of the underlying criminal investigation are set forth in the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem (Complaint) filed on July 19, 2010. Claimant Jaime R. Serrano, the owner of the defendant property, denies these allegations.
2. Trueman E. Vroman also has an interest in the defendant property, and has filed a Claim and Answer to the Complaint. Vroman loaned Serrano funds to construct the residence and is owed approximately $190,000, which is secured by a deed of trust recorded against the defendant property on October 26, 2007.*fn1 On June 28, 2011, this Court approved a Stipulation for Expedited Settlement entered into by the United States and Vroman. The Stipulation provided that, upon entry of a Final Judgment of Forfeiture in favor of the United States, the United States would sell the defendant real property in a commercially reasonable manner and for fair market value. The Stipulation further profiled the priority of payment to the involved parties/entities, i.e., U.S. Marshals Service fees, property taxes, broker costs, and Vroman's promissory note. The Stipulation also excused and relieved Vroman from further participation in this action.
3. The United States intends to depose claimant Serrano about the marijuana being grown on the defendant property; about who constructed the grow rooms found within the home; and about his involvement in drug trafficking. If discovery proceeds, claimant Serrano would be placed in the difficult position of either invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and losing the ability to protect his alleged interest in the defendant property, or waiving his Fifth Amendment right and submitting to a deposition and potentially incriminating himself in the pending criminal matter. If claimant invokes his Fifth Amendment right, the United States will be deprived of the ability to explore the factual basis for the claim he filed in this action.
4. In addition, claimant Serrano intends to depose law enforcement officers who were involved in underlying drug-trafficking investigation, and the execution of the state search warrant at the claimant's residence. Allowing depositions of these officers would adversely affect the ability of the federal government to properly prosecute the case.
5. Accordingly, the parties recognize that proceeding with this action at this time has potential adverse affects on the prosecution of the related-criminal case and/or upon claimant's ability to prove his claims to the property and to contest the government's allegations that the property is forfeitable.
6. For these reasons, the parties jointly request that this matter be stayed until the related criminal case now pending in state court has concluded. The parties presently understand that the related criminal case against Serrano is set for trial in late August 2011. Within 30 days after the conclusion of the related criminal case Serrano will file his Answer to the Complaint, and the parties will submit a joint status report addressing the matters set forth in the July 19, 2010, Order Requiring Joint Status Report.
7. While this case is stayed, claimant Serrano agrees to keep current all payments due to Trueman E. Vroman under the promissory note dated October 26, 2007, in the original principal amount of $225,000.00, and secured by the deed of trust recorded in Trinity County, California, on October 26, 2007, encumbering the defendant property.
8. In the event claimant Serrano defaults on his obligations to Trueman E. Vroman, claimant Serrano agrees to join any motion filed by Vroman and/or the United States for the 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 claimant Serrano in connection therewith. In the alternative, if at the time of default the fair market value of the defendant property is less than the amount owed to Vroman, the United States may move to dismiss the pending forfeiture action to permit Vroman to exercise his rights under the note and deed of trust, including but not limited to foreclosure. The decision whether to seek an interlocutory sale order, or to permit Vroman to foreclose, lies in the sole discretion of the United States.
For the reasons set forth above, this matter is stayed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(g)(1) and 981(g)(2) until the conclusion of the related criminal case now pending in Trinity County Superior Court. Within 30 days after the criminal case has concluded, claimant Serrano will file his Answer to the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem, and the parties will submit a joint status report addressing the matters set forth in the July 19, 2010, Order Requiring Joint Status Report. The Scheduling Conference is continued to November 28, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. A joint status report shall be filed no later November 14, 2011.