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Omidi v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 13, 2017

Cindy Omidi; Asset Management Irrevocable Trusts via Trustee Asiatrust Nevis, Ltd., aka Asiatrust, Ltd.; and Property Care Insurance, Inc., Petitioners-Appellants,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted January 11, 2017 Pasadena, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California D.C. No. 2:15-cv-00389-ODW-VBK Otis D. Wright II, District Judge, Presiding

          Ryan D. Kashfian, Esq. (argued) and Robert A. Kashfian, Esq., Kashfian & Kashfian LLP, Century City, California, for Petitioners-Appellants.

          Steven R. Welk (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Asset Forfeiture Section; Eileen M. Decker, United States Attorney; Lawrence S. Middleton, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Criminal Division; Office of the United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California; for Respondent-Appellee.

          Before: Alex Kozinski and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and Mark W. Bennett, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Civil Forfeiture

         The panel affirmed the district court's order denying appellants' motion for return of seized funds under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(1)(F).

         In connection with an ongoing criminal investigation, the government seized around $100 million from bank accounts controlled by appellants as proceeds of criminal activity and subject to forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 981. Appellants alleged that the government did not provide the notice required by § 983(a)(1)(A) of CAFRA within 60 days of the seizure.

         The panel held that § 983(a)(1)(A) did not apply to this case because the provision limits the applicability of the 60-day notice deadline to "nonjudicial" civil forfeiture proceedings, and this case involved judicial forfeiture proceedings. The panel held that the government could not have pursued nonjudicial forfeiture proceedings even if it had wanted to because the value of the personal property exceeded $500, 000. 19 U.S.C. § 1607(a).

          OPINION

          WATFORD, Circuit Judge.

         As part of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), Pub. L. No. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202, Congress imposed new deadlines for the processing of civil forfeiture claims. Under CAFRA, when the federal government seizes certain types of property, it must generally provide notice of the seizure to interested parties as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 60 days after the seizure occurs. 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(1)(A). After receiving notice, a person with an interest in the property may file a claim with the relevant agency. § 983(a)(2)(A). Upon receiving a claim, the government must file a civil or criminal forfeiture action within 90 days, unless a court extends the deadline. § 983(a)(3)(A).

         In this case, in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation, the government obtained warrants authorizing it to seize roughly $100 million from bank accounts controlled by the appellants. The government asserts that the funds are proceeds of criminal activity and thus subject to forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 981, the primary statute authorizing forfeiture of property tied to criminal wrongdoing. The appellants allege that although they learned of the seizure shortly after it occurred, the government did not provide the notice required by § 983(a)(1)(A) within 60 days of the seizure. As a consequence of that failure, they contend, the government must return the seized funds under § 983(a)(1)(F). That provision provides, as a sanction for violating subsection (A), that "the Government shall return the property to [the person from whom it was seized] without prejudice to the ...


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