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United States v. Approximately $ 460

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
APPROXIMATELY $460, 520.00 IN U.S. CURRENCY, Defendant.

         FOURTEEN DAY OBJECTION DEADLINE

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT THE COURT GRANT, IN FULL, PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT AND FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORFEITURE AS TO ALL POTENTIAL CLAIMANTS (ECF Nos. 9 & 25)

          Michael J. Seng UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Honorable Judge Michael J. Seng on Plaintiff United States' ex parte motion for default judgment and final judgment of forfeiture. (ECF No. 9.) There was no appearance by or on behalf of any other person or entity claiming an interest in the Defendant Currency to oppose Plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff's motion was referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 302(c)(19) and is considered in accordance with Local Rule 540(d).

         This matter is taken under submission without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will recommend that Plaintiff's motion be GRANTED in full.

         I. Procedural History

         On September 24, 2015, detectives from the Fresno County Sheriff's Department seized approximately $460, 520.00 (hereafter “Defendant Currency”) from inside the seat of a white Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle during a traffic stop. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at ¶¶ 6-7, 19-21.) Juan Plazola was the driver of the Navigator and Eduardo Maya-Perez was in the front passenger seat. (Id. ¶ 8.) During the stop, Plazola told detectives that the vehicle belonged to a woman named Marcia. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plazola, Maya-Perez, and the Navigator were released without incident. (Id. ¶ 20.)

         On December 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant forfeiture action. (Compl. (ECF No. 1.)) Direct notice was sent to Plazola and Maya-Perez only. (Mot. for Default J. (ECF No. 9) at 7-8.) On March 1, 2016, after Plazola and Maya-Perez failed to file claims, Plaintiff obtained a clerk's default against them. (Clerk's Entry of Default J. (ECF Nos. 7 & 8.))

         On March 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for default judgment and final judgment of forfeiture against all potential claimants (hereafter “Motion for Default”) setting forth Plaintiff's efforts to publish and provide notice of the complaint to potential claimants Plazola and Maya-Perez. (Mot. for Default J. at 17.)

         On April 26, 2016, this Court issued findings and recommendations (“F&R”) recommending the Motion for Default be granted in full. (F&R to Grant Mot. for Default J. (ECF No. 12.) at 10.) On May 26, 2016, the district court adopted in part the F&R, granting default judgment against potential claimants Plazola and Maya-Perez but ruling that it could not enter final judgment against all potential claimants because Plaintiff had failed to give direct notice to the registered owner and/or the purported owner of the vehicle, “Marcia.” (Order Adopting F&R in Part (ECF No. 13) at 2.) Plaintiff was thus granted additional time to notice the registered owner and/or “Marcia, ” or otherwise explain why it was not necessary to serve direct notice on these individuals. (Id.)

         On June 8, 2016, direct notice was sent to Marcia Salcido, the registered owner of the vehicle. (Suppl. Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Default J. (ECF No. 25) at 3.) On January 20, 2017, after Ms. Salcido failed to file a claim, Plaintiff obtained a clerk's entry of default as to Ms. Salcido. (Req. for Entry of Default (ECF No. 23); Clerk's Entry of Default (ECF No. 24.)) On February 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Supplemental Brief in support of its Motion for Default. (ECF No. 25.)

         II. Facts

         The facts pertaining to the traffic stop that led to the seizure of the Defendant Currency are stated in detail in both the complaint and Plaintiff's initial Motion for Default. Those facts remain unchanged and will not be repeated herein. The following facts pertaining to potential claimant Marcia Salcido are taken from Plaintiff's supplemental brief.

         After detectives located the Defendant Currency, Plazola told detectives that the Defendant Currency was not his, but was likely the property of the registered owner, “Marcia.” Plazola provided the detectives with Marcia's telephone number. The detectives called the number and spoke to a woman who identified herself as “Marcia” and the owner of the Navigator. Marcia told detectives she had loaned the Navigator to Plazola. Marcia also stated that she did not have any weapons, narcotics, or large sums of money in the vehicle.

         According to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Incident Report from September 24, 2015, the Navigator belonged to Marcia Salcido, residing at 16305 Ladysmith Street, Hacienda Heights, California, 91745. Ms. Salcido's ...


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