United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT ECF NO. 23
STANLEY A. BOONE, District Judge.
On January 15, 2014, Plaintiff United States of America ("Plaintiff") filed a motion for default judgment in this forfeiture action. (ECF No. 23.) This matter was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for findings and recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 302.
Pursuant to Local Rule 540(d) and 230(g), the Court finds that this matter is appropriate for adjudication upon the record and brief on file. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Plaintiff's motion for default judgment be granted.
This action is an in rem forfeiture action under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) relating to currency traceable to a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, et seq. The property named as a defendant in this action is Approximately $16, 755.00 in U.S. Currency ("the Defendant Currency"). The Defendant Currency was seized on or about December 21, 2011 at 1734 Randazzo Avenue in Modesto, California ("the Randazzo Residence"). The Defendant Currency was seized during a search of the Randazzo Residence related to the arrests of James Bastin, Sarah Bastin and David Lee Wilson for the possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.
On June 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action. (ECF No. 1.) On June 22, 2012, a warrant for the arrest of the Defendant Currency was issued. (ECF No. 4.) The warrant was executed on July 2, 2012. (ECF No. 5.)
Public notice of this action and the arrest of the Defendant Currency was published on the official internet government forfeiture site www.forfeiture.gov for at least 30 consecutive days. Direct notice was mailed to James Bastin and Sara Bastin. On July 12, 2012, James Bastin filed a claim for the Defendant Currency. (ECF No. 6.) No other person has filed a claim for the Defendant Currency. On September 17, 2013, default was entered as to Sara Bastin. (ECF No. 16.)
On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff propounded on James Bastin discovery requests including requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, interrogatories and special interrogatories. On May 24, 2013, Plaintiff received a request from James Bastin's attorney seeking a thirty day extension of time to respond to the discovery requests. Plaintiff granted the extension, which extended the deadline for responding to discovery through July 26, 2013. Plaintiff never received any responses to the discovery requests. Pursuant to the Court's scheduling order, discovery in this action closed on August 30, 2013. (See ECF No. 10.)
On September 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike James Bastin's claim and for default judgment. (ECF No. 17.) The Court granted the request to strike James Bastin's claim, but denied default judgment as premature, because default had not yet been entered as to James Bastin. (ECF No. 19.) On December 13, 2013, default was entered as to James Bastin. (ECF No. 22.)
A. Sufficiency of the Complaint
Plaintiff contends that forfeiture is appropriate pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). Section 881(a)(6) states that currency traceable to an exchange of a controlled substance is subject to forfeiture to the United States. The Court finds that the complaint alleges sufficient facts to demonstrate that the Defendant Currency is subject to forfeiture because it is traceable to the illegal sale of controlled substances. ...