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United States of America v. One 2006 Mercedes-Benz R350

March 7, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ONE 2006 MERCEDES-BENZ R350, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT [13]

I.INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff United States of America ("the Government") filed a Complaint for Civil Forfeiture against Defendant One 2006 Mercedes-Benz R350. The Government alleges that Defendant was acquired with funds traceable to wire fraud and money laundering and is therefore forfeitable to the United States. The Government effected service by publication and sent direct notice to known potential claimants. No one filed a claim to the Defendant automobile, and the Clerk of Court entered default. For the reasons addressed below, the Court GRANTS the Government's Motion for Default Judgment.*fn1

II.FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Rocco Cuccia was the former Buyer and Manager of Material Business Systems for Lionsgate Entertainment's Home Entertainment Department. The Government alleges that Cuccia concocted a scheme through which he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Lionsgate in association with Larry Collins. (Compl. ¶¶ 11--13.) Collins owns Versagraphic Design Group and Versastack Merchandising, third-party vendors of Lionsgate. (Id. ¶ 14.)

As part of his duties at Lionsgate, Cuccia had to find suppliers of corrugated cardboard displays. (Id. ¶ 11.) Lionsgate uses these displays to present DVDs for sale. (Id. ¶ 11.) Versagraphic (now Versagraphix) and Verstastack both provided these displays to Lionsgate. (Id. ¶ 14.) Cuccia allegedly "padded" already-approved purchase orders from Lionsgate to these companies by increasing the quantities ordered and by creating entirely new, but fraudulent, purchase orders. (Id. ¶¶ 15--16.)

Cuccia and Collins allegedly employed another company, Jefferson Factors, Inc., to facilitate payment of the invoices between Lionsgate and Collins's companies. (Id. ¶ 17.) Jefferson received payment for the padded purchase orders and would then send that amount, less Jefferson's fee, to Collins. (Id. ¶¶ 18--19.) Collins apparently then forwarded a percentage to Cuccia. (See id. ¶ 22.)

In January 2011, Lionsgate conducted an internal audit and unearthed the scheme. (Id. ¶ 21.) Lionsgate asserted that Cuccia lacked authority to enter into these contracts with Collins's companies on Lionsgate's behalf. (Id. ¶ 20.)

On August 9, 2010, Cuccia's Citibank account balance was just shy of $10,000. But through September 17, 2010, he received $111,000 via four wire transfers that IRS Special Agents traced from Jefferson to Collins to Cuccia. (Id. ¶¶ 25--35.) On

September 15, 2010, Cuccia wrote a check payable to Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach, drawn on the Citibank account, for $29,595.00, the price of the Defendant Merecedes-Benz. Cuccia purchased the Defendant Mercedes-Benz for his former girlfriend, Laura Adriana Moreno. (Id. ¶ 41.)

In an interview with IRS Special Agents, Collins admitted sending the money to Cuccia, though Collins claimed the money was for "personal loans and consulting fees." (Id. ¶ 22.)

Cuccia admitted increasing the quantities on the purchase orders. (Id. ¶ 23.) He also conceded that he received over $500,000 from Collins's companies via wire transfers. (Id.)

On September 6, 2012, the Government filed a civil-forfeiture Complaint against Defendant. The Government alleges that Defendant was purchased with funds derived from wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 and money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1957. (Id. ¶ 7.) The Government contends that Defendant is accordingly subject to civil forfeiture under both 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C). (Id.)

Also on September 6, a warrant authorizing the United States Marshals Service to seize Defendant issued. (Parham Decl. Ex. A.) On September 17, 2012, Treasury Department agents ...


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