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United States v. Approximately $23

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 20, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
APPROXIMATELY $23, 770.87 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM BANK OF AMERICA ACCOUNT NO. 0050 1112 8989, HELD IN THE NAME OF G&R EMPIRE, LLC, APPROXIMATELY $6, 741.29 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM BANK OF AMERICA ACCOUNT NO. 0050 1113 0692, HELD IN THE NAME OF PHOENIX CASH & CARRY, LLC, APPROXIMATELY $9, 774.73 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM BANK OF AMERICA ACCOUNT NO. 0049 6875 8911, HELD IN THE NAME OF IDEAL TOBACCO WHOLESALE, INC., APPROXIMATELY $7, 054.55 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM WELLS FARGO BANK ACCOUNT NO. XXX-XXXXXXX, HELD IN THE NAME OF BITTAR FAMILY TRUST, APPROXIMATELY $31, 402.20 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM WELLS FARGO BANK ACCOUNT NO. XXX-XXXXXXX, HELD IN THE NAME OF RAED MOURI AND LOUDY EGHO, APPROXIMATELY $29, 095.02 IN U.S. CURRENCY SEIZED FROM WELLS FARGO BANK ACCOUNT NO. XXX-XXXXXXX, HELD IN THE NAME OF BITTAR FAMILY TRUST, APPROXIMATELY 6, 954 TOTAL BOXES OF ASSORTED SMOKEABLE OTP EVIDENCE (CONTAINING APPROXIMATELY 431, 447 UNITS OF SMOKEABLE OTP) RECOVERED FROM IDEAL TOBACCO WHOLESALE, APPROXIMATELY 22 TOTAL BOXES OF SMOKEABLE OTP EVIDENCE (CONTAINING APPROXIMATELY 1, 350 UNITS OF SMOKEABLE OTP) RECOVERED FROM THE ABF DELIVERY TRUCK AT IDEAL TOBACCO WHOLESALE, AND APPROXIMATELY 87, 595 UNITS OF ASSORTED SMOKEABLE OTP EVIDENCE RECOVERED FROM PHOENIX CASH & CARRY, Defendants.

FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORFEITURE

JOHN A. MENDEZ, District Judge.

Pursuant to the Stipulation for Final Judgment of Forfeiture, the Court finds:

1. This is a civil forfeiture action against the above captioned assets (hereafter "defendant properties") seized on or about August 13, 2008.

2. A Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem ("Complaint") was filed on November 14, 2008, alleging that the above captioned defendant properties are subject to forfeiture to the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C).

3. On or about November 19, 2008, the Clerk issued a Warrant for Arrest for the defendant properties, and that warrant was executed on November 25, 2008, December 3, 2008, and December 22, 2008.

4. Beginning on December 10, 2008, for at least thirty consecutive days, the United States published Notice of the Forfeiture Action on the official internet government forfeiture site www.forfeiture.gov. A Declaration of Publication was filed on February 2, 2009.

5. In addition to the public notice on the official internet government forfeiture site www.forfeiture.gov, actual notice or attempted notice was given to the following individuals or entities:

a. Raed Mouri
b. George Bittar
c. Loudy Egho
d. Wanda Bittar
e. Charles Gerken
f. Phoenix Cash & Carry
g. Joseph M. Anderson dba Smokin Joes

6. Claimants G&R Empire, LLC; Phoenix Cash & Carry, LLC; Raed "Roy" Mouri and Loudy Egho; George Bittar, as trustee of the Bittar Family Trust, dated December 23, 2003; George Bittar; and Ideal Tobacco Wholesale, Inc. ("Claimants"), filed Verified Claims on December 23, 2008. This case has been stayed by Court Order pending the resolution of the related criminal case, United States v. Raed Mouri and George Bittar, 2:13-CR-00261-JAM. No other parties have filed claims or answers in this matter, and the time in which any person or entity may file a claim and answer has expired.

7. On April 14, 2009, a Stipulation and Order for Interlocutory Sale of Defendant Tobacco Products was entered authorizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to sell the defendant tobacco products identified in the caption above.

8. The Clerk of the Court entered a Clerk's Certificate of Entry of Default against Charles Gerken on February 25, 2009. The Clerk of the Court entered a Clerk's Certificate of Entry of Default against Joseph M. Anderson and Wanda Bittar on December 12, 2013. Pursuant to Local Rule 540, the United States requests that as part of this Final Judgment of Forfeiture the Court enter a default judgment against the interests, if any, of Charles Gerken, Joseph M. Anderson dba Smokin Joes, and Wanda Bittar without further notice.

Based on the above findings, and the files and records of the Court, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED:

1. The Court adopts the Stipulation for Final Judgment of Forfeiture entered into by and between the parties to this action.

2. That judgment is hereby entered against Claimants G&R Empire, LLC; Phoenix Cash & Carry, LLC; Raed "Roy" Mouri and Loudy Egho; George Bittar, as trustee of the Bittar Family Trust, dated December 23, 2003; George Bittar; and Ideal Tobacco Wholesale, Inc., and all other potential claimants who have not filed claims in this action.

3. Upon entry of this Final Judgment of Forfeiture, all right, title, and interest of Claimants G&R Empire, LLC; Phoenix Cash & Carry, LLC; Raed "Roy" Mouri and Loudy Egho; George Bittar, as trustee of the Bittar Family Trust, dated December 23, 2003; George Bittar; and Ideal Tobacco Wholesale, Inc. in the following defendant properties, together with any interest that may have accrued, shall be forfeited to the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C), to be disposed of according to law:

a. Approximately $23, 770.87 in U.S. Currency seized from Bank of America Account No. 0050 1112 8989, held in the name of G&R Empire, LLC,
b. Approximately $6, 741.29 in U.S. Currency seized from Bank of America Account No. 0050 1113 0692, held in the name of Phoenix Cash & Carry, LLC,
c. Approximately $9, 774.73 in U.S. Currency seized from Bank of America Account No. 0049 6875 8911, held in the name of Ideal Tobacco Wholesale, Inc.,
d. Approximately $1, 654.55 of the $7, 054.55 in U.S. Currency seized from Wells Fargo Bank Account No. XXX-XXXXXXX, held in the name of Bittar Family Trust,
e. Approximately $31, 402.20 in U.S. Currency seized from Wells Fargo Bank Account No. XXX-XXXXXXX, held in the name of Raed Mouri and Loudy Egho,
f. Approximately $29, 095.02 in U.S. Currency seized from Wells Fargo Bank Account No. XXX-XXXXXXX, held in the name of Bittar Family Trust,
g. Approximately $1, 122, 170.50 in net proceeds from the sale of the approximately 6, 954 Total Boxes of Assorted Smokeable OTP Evidence (Containing Approximately 431, 447 Units of Smokeable OTP) recovered from Ideal Tobacco Wholesale,
h. Approximately $3, 511.28 in net proceeds from the sale of the approximately 22 Total Boxes of Smokeable OTP Evidence (Containing Approximately 1, 350 Units of Smokeable OTP) recovered from the ABF delivery truck at Ideal Tobacco Wholesale, and
i. Approximately $165, 811.85 of the $227, 829.89 in net proceeds from the sale of the approximately 87, 595 Units of Assorted Smokeable OTP Evidence recovered from Phoenix Cash & Carry and the following tobacco that was not sold:
1. Approximately 234 full cases, each containing 30 cartons of Smokin Joe's little cigars, assorted flavors and sizes. Each carton contains 12 packs of little cigars with each pack containing 20 individual cigars (7, 020 total cartons),
2. Several partial cases containing a total of 110 cartons of Smokin Joe's little cigars, assorted flavors and sizes,
3. Approximately 20 and a half cases of American Smokin Joe's cigarette tobacco. Each full case consists of 12 aluminum cans containing tobacco weighing 150 grams, and
4. Approximately 27 cases of Smokin Joe's full flavored cigarette tobacco; each case containing 12-one pound bags of tobacco.

4. Upon entry of this Final Judgment of Forfeiture, but no later than 60 days thereafter, the following assets shall be returned to Claimants through their attorney Jeffrey B. Setness:

a. Approximately $5, 400.00 of the $7, 054.55 in U.S. Currency seized from Wells Fargo Bank Account No. XXX-XXXXXXX, held in the name of Bittar Family Trust[1], and
b. Approximately $62, 018.04 of the $227, 829.89 in net proceeds from the sale of the approximately 87, 595 Units of Assorted Smokeable OTP Evidence recovered from Phoenix Cash & Carry.

5. The United States and its servants, agents, and employees and all other public entities, their servants, agents, and employees, are released from any and all liability arising out of or in any way connected with the seizure, arrest, sale, or forfeiture of the defendant properties. This is a full and final release applying to all unknown and unanticipated injuries, and/or damages arising out of said seizure, arrest, sale, or forfeiture, as well as to those now known or disclosed. The parties waived the provisions of California Civil Code § 1542.

6. Claimants waived any and all claim or right to interest that may have accrued on the defendant funds being forfeited to the United States.

7. Pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, and the allegations set forth in the Complaint filed on November 14, 2008, the Court finds that there was reasonable cause for the seizure and arrest of the defendant properties, and for the commencement and prosecution of this forfeiture action, and a Certificate of Reasonable Cause pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2465 shall be entered accordingly.

8. All parties are to bear their own costs and attorney's fees.

9. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Hon. John A. Mendez, District Judge, shall retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of this Final Judgment of Forfeiture.

SO ORDERED.


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