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Gonzalez v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 21, 2013

JESUS GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

ORDER TO DISMISS ACTION AND JUDGMENT THEREON (Doc. 11.) PRELIMINARY STATEMENT TO THE PARTIES AND COUNSEL

LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.

Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseload in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. This Court cannot address all arguments, evidence and matters raised by parties and addresses only the arguments, evidence and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order given the shortage of district judges and staff. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to address this Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action.

INTRODUCTION

Defendants United States of America ("Government") seeks to dismiss in the absence of this Court's jurisdiction plaintiff Jesus Gonzalez' ("Mr. Gonzalez'") action for return of $154, 679 ("funds") held by the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). The Government contends that Mr. Gonzalez neither responded timely to DEA notices nor submitted a timely claim to render the funds administratively forfeited in DEA's favor and to divest this Court's jurisdiction. Mr. Gonzalez responds that he "properly proceeded with an administrative action and when relief was exhausted, " he filed this action. This Court considered the Government's F.R.Civ.P. 12 motion to dismiss on the record without a hearing. See Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons discussed below, this Court DISMISSES this action and ENTERS judgment in the Government's favor.

BACKGROUND

Funds' Seizure

On March 3, 2012, Coalinga Police Department officers executed a search warrant at 18752 13th Street, Huron, California ("seizure address") in connection with an investigation into Salvador Gariby Bravo's ("Mr. Bravo's") distribution of methamphetamine. At the seizure address, the officers encountered Mr. Bravo, Mr. Gonzalez, Esperanza Reyes Saucedo ("Ms. Saucedo"), Manuel Ascencio Becerra ("Mr. Becerra"), and Arcadio Lopez Garcoa ("Mr. Garcoa").[1]

Ms. Saucedo informed the officers that:

1. She was Mr. Gonzalez' mother and Mr. Bravo's girlfriend;
2. She lived at the seizure address;
3. Mr. Bravo had lived at the seizure address for 20 years; and
4. Mr. Gonzalez stayed at the seizure address from time to time.

In his opposition papers, Mr. Gonzalez confirmed that he lived at the seizure address with Ms. Saucedo.

The officers found the funds in a safe in a coat closet in the seizure address' living room. Mr. Gonzalez provided the officers the safe's combination and indicated the safe contained $10, 000, later indicated it contained $50, 000, and finally indicated it contained $100, 000. The officers located in the safe the funds and a.38 caliber revolver. The officers seized methamphetamine, cocaine, hashish, scales and packaging materials.

Mr. Gonzalez claimed the funds were from his La Esperanza Restaurant, 36865 S. Lassen, Huron, CA 93234 ("restaurant"). A trained canine positively alerted the presence of illegal narcotics on the funds.

Initial Forfeiture Of The Funds

On April 4, 2012, the DEA accepted the funds for forfeiture based on violation of 21 U.S.C. ยง 841, et seq., and as furnished in exchange for a controlled substance. The DEA commenced administrative forfeiture of the funds.

First Round Of Seizure Notices

On April 26, 2012, DEA sent by certified mail, return receipt requested a funds' seizure notice to each potential claimant addressed to the seizure address. The notices for each potential claimant were returned to DEA with the notation "Returned to Sender, No City Delivery, Must Be Addressed to Post Office Box." On April 26, 2012, DEA also sent funds' seizure notices by certified mail, return receipt requested to Mr. Gonzalez and the restaurant addressed to the restaurant's address. The notices were returned to DEA with the same notation as the other returned notices.

On May 14, 21 and 29, 2012, funds' seizure notices were published in the The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper of general circulation in the Eastern District of California. The notices indicated the June 28, 2012 deadline to file a claim for the funds.

Second Round Of Seizure Notices

On June 21, 2013, after confirming Mr. Gonzalez' current address of 16734 13th Street, Huron, CA 93234, the DEA sent Mr. Gonzalez funds' seizure notices at that address by certified mail, return receipt requested and by first class mail to provide Mr. Gonzalez up to July 26, 2012 to file a claim as to the funds. The notices were returned to DEA with ...


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