United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF WEIPENG
YAN, NIEVES ZEFERINA BRAVO, AND ALL OTHER POTENTIAL CLAIMANTS
(Dkt. [ 19 ], filed on June 13, 2019)
January 9, 2019, plaintiff, the United States of America (the
“government”) initiated this civil forfeiture
action by filing a verified complaint against defendant $23,
100.00 in U.S. currency (the “defendant
currency”), pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6).
Dkt. 1. On March 25, 2019, the government filed the operative
amended complaint. Dkt. 9 (“Compl.”). On June 10,
2019, the Clerk of the Court entered default against the
interests of Weipeng Yan (“Yan”), Nieves Zeferina
Bravo (“Bravo”), and all other potential
claimants to the defendant currency. Dkt. 15; Dkt. 17. On
June 13, 2019, the government filed the instant motion for
default judgment. Dkt. 19 (“Mot.”). The motion is
Court held a hearing on July 15, 2019. No. potential
claimants to the defendan currency appeared. Having carefully
reviewed the motion, and the government's supporting
declaration and exhibits, the Court finds and concludes as
18, 2018, while conducting surveillance as part of a drug
trafficking investigation at the residence of Meiyan Chen
(“Chen”), officers observed an unknown male
approach the residence in a Chevrolet Malibu and exit the
vehicle carrying a large, white, and weighted grocery bag.
Compl. ¶ 8. The driver gave the bag to an individual
later identified as Hongwu Zhan (“Zhan”), who had
been standing in Chen's driveway. Id. The driver
then returned to his car and drove away. Id. Zhan
briefly entered the residence, then re-emerged, still holding
the bag. Id. Officers report that he then
“looked in all directions as if he was checking for the
presence of law enforcement, ” id., and then
walked to meet an individual later identified as Weipeng Yan
(“Yan”), who had just arrived at the residence in
a Ford Mustang, id. ¶ 9. Zhan gave the white
bag to Yan, who drove away. Id.
later, another group of officers initiated a traffic stop
after observing Yan commit unspecified California Vehicle
Code violations. Compl. ¶ 10. Officers observed the
white bag sitting under Yan's driver's seat and
examined its contents. Id. Inside, they found
bundled, rubber-banded currency in denominations of 103
one-hundred dollar bills, 36 fifty-dollar bills, and 550
twenty-dollar bills. Id. ¶¶ 11, 14. When
asked by the officers, Yan estimated that the cash totaled
$1, 000 in profits. Id. ¶ 12. In fact, the cash
totaled $23, 100.00. Id. ¶ 14.
also told officers he had retrieved the funds from a friend
at a location that they noted was near the Chen residence
address, and that the money constituted profits “from
selling shoes.” Id. ¶ 12. However, Yan
produced no documentation to support this claim. Id.
Highway patrol officers relayed this information to the
officers who continued to surveil the Chen residence, and
those officers confronted Chen, questioning her about the
cash discovered in Yan's vehicle. Id. ¶ 14.
Chen also reported that it was money she had made while
selling shoes for Yan. Id. Officers also returned to
the Chen house with Yan, who they continued to question about
the seized funds. Id. According to the government,
Yan then provided them with “various [conflicting]
accounts of how much money was in the bag, how he had
obtained it, and to whom it belonged.” Id.
government does not specify whether anyone was arrested as a
result of this seizure, or if this seizure led to further
investigation of the persons involved. However, on about
September 11, 2018, Chen and Zhan submitted claims to the
defendant currency in an administrative forfeiture
proceeding, held by the Drug Enforcement Agency
(“DEA”), seeking the return of the cash and
asserting that the funds “constituted savings generated
by Chen and her husband.” Id. ¶15. The
government does not specify the results of this hearing.
However, on June 6, 2019, Chen and Zhan, through their
counsel, entered into a Consent Judgment of Forfeiture
(“consent judgment”) with the government to
settle the action relative to their own respective interests
in the defendant currency. See Dkt. 16. As part of
the consent judgment, the government agreed to return $3,
465.00 to Chen and Zhan, id. ¶ 4, and Chen and
Zhan waived their rights to contest the forfeiture of the
remaining $19, 635.00 of the defendant Currency, id.
government alleges that the remainder of the defendant
currency is subject to forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C.
§ 881(a)(6) because it represents or is traceable to
proceeds of illegal narcotics trafficking, or was intended to
be used in one or more exchanges for a controlled substance
or listed chemical, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841
et seq. Id. ¶ 16.
to Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
court may order default judgment following the entry of
default by the Clerk of Court. PepsiCo, Inc. v.
California Security Cans., 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1174
(C.D. Cal. 2002). Upon entry of default, the factual
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, except those
relating to damages, are deemed admitted. Id. at
1175. Although the court has discretion to grant or deny a
motion for default judgment, id. at 1174, the Ninth
Circuit has directed that courts consider the following
factors (collectively, the Eitel factors) in
exercising this discretion: (1) the possibility of prejudice
to plaintiff, (2) the merits of plaintiff's substantive
claims, (3) the sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the sum of
money at stake in the action, (5) the possibility of a
dispute concerning the material facts, (6) whether
defendant's default was the product of excusable neglect,
and (7) the strong policy favoring decisions on the merits.
Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir.