United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division
ORDER GRANTING UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT [ECF No. 15]
LAUREL BEELER, Magistrate Judge.
This is a judicial forfeiture action brought under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) involving the seizure of Defendant $23, 540 in United States currency. The clerk entered default, ECF No. 14, and the United States now brings a Motion for Default Judgment ("Motion"), ECF No. 15. A hearing on the Motion was held on September 18, 2014. For the reasons stated below, and good cause appearing, the motion is GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
On November 20, 2013, two United States Postal Inspectors ("PIs") Jason Chung and Aaron Doo and a DEA Task Force Agent ("TFA") Britt Elmore at the Post Office's Oakland Processing and Distribution Center "were engaged in routine parcel interdiction activities" to identify parcels that might contain "controlled substances, the proceeds from trafficking in controlled substances or currency intended to purchase controlled substances." Complaint, ECF No. 1, ¶ 8. The PIs and TFA identified an Express Mail parcel number EU XXXXXXXXX U.S. ("Parcel"), which weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces; measured 12 inches by 12 inches by 11 inches; and cost $71.70 to ship. Id. The TFA's narcotics detection canine indicated the presence of controlled substances in the Parcel. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
PI Chung further investigated the Parcel using an on-line law enforcement database called Accurint and learned that the listed sender-Keith Armstrong, 912 Rockefeller Avenue, Tupelo, MS 38801-had an FBI NCIC criminal history report with a misdemeanor arrest for driving with a suspended license in 2010. Id. ¶ 13(a). An Accurint query for the address-Lavish Clothing DYII and Lavish Clothing-revealed no history. Id. ¶ 13(b). A web search showed no results for either addressee in Oakland. Id. A search of the recipient's address-2029 Damuth Street, Oakland, CA 94602-indicated it was likely a single family home. Id. ¶ 13(b). An Accurint query showed that an individual named Mario Evans (DOB 4/9/1978) was associated with the address from August 2012 to November 2014. Id. ¶ 13(d). Evans's FBI NCIC criminal history report showed more than 35 arrests in California between 1994 and 2013. Id. Of those, Evans had five drug related arrests and dispositions between 2005 and 2012. Id.
After obtaining and executing a search warrant, the PI Chung opened the Parcel and found $23, 540 "concealed inside many layers within a duct taped metal stock pot wrapped in a bubble wrapped white towel." Id. ¶ 14. All but 10 of the 1288 bills were in denominations of $20 or less. Id. The packaging and small denomination bills are both consistent with drug trafficking. Id. Based on the totality of the circumstances, PI Chung seized Defendant $23, 540. Id. ¶ 15.
An individual named Thaddeus Shaheed filed an administrative claim with the United States Postal Service for Defendant on February 7, 2014. Id. ¶ 16. PI Chung searched a government database named CLEAR and learned that Shaheed was associated with the recipient address in Oakland from February 2010 to August 2011. Id. As of December 10, 2013, the USPS for holding mail for Shaheed at that address. Id.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND NOTICE
The United States filed this action on May 6, 2014. On May 9, 2014, the United States gave notice of this action directly to Armstrong, Lavish Clothing DYII, Evans, Shaheed, and four other parties four other individuals and the recipient's address in Oakland ("Potential Claimants") by serving a copy of the Complaint for Forfeiture, the Notice of Forfeiture Action, the Warrant of Arrest of Property In Rem, and related documents, via both certified and regular U.S. mail. See Certificate of Service, ECF No. 7; see also Motion for Entry of Default, ECF No. 12. The United States also published notice of this forfeiture action on an official government website (www.forfeiture.gov) for at least 30 consecutive days, beginning on May 8, 2014. See Declaration of Publication, ECF No. 11.
No one filed a verified claim to Defendant $23, 540 or otherwise responded to this action. See Motion, ECF No. 15 at 4; see generally Docket. The clerk entered default on August 5, 2014. See ECF No. 14. On August 6, 2014, the government filed its motion for default judgment and noticed it for September 18, 2014. See ECF No. 15. It served the Potential Claimants on August 6, 2014. See ECF No. 16. The court held a hearing on September 18, 2014, and no one appeared to contest the government's motion.