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United States v. Real Property Located at 8911 Highway 49

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 15, 2019




         I. Introduction

         This case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to Local Rule 302(c)(19) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This is a civil forfeiture action against real property located at 6199 Highway 26, Valley Springs, California, Calaveras County, APN: 073-013-005-000, including all appurtenances and improvements thereto (hereafter referred to as “defendant real property”).[1]Plaintiff United States of America (“Government”) seeks default judgment against the interest of Xiulan Yang (“Yang”). Plaintiff seeks entry of a final judgment of forfeiture that vests in the Government all right, title, and interest in defendant real property.

         The Government's motion for entry of default judgment (ECF No. 90) came on regularly for hearing on October 9, 2019. Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Khasigian appeared at the hearing on behalf of the Government. Michael Gilligan, counsel for defendant Signet Management, LLC, appeared telephonically. Yang did not appear at the hearing.

         Upon review of the motion, supporting documents, and the oral representations of the Government at the hearing, and good cause appearing, the court now issues the following findings and recommendations.

         II. Background

         This case is proceeding on the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem (“complaint”) filed April 3, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint makes the following factual allegations:

         In 2016, law enforcement identified Leonard Yang as a participant in a large-scale residential marijuana operation in Sacramento County that involved seven Sacramento residences. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11.) Each residential property connected to the criminal organization consumed an unusually large amount of electricity and the properties were purchased with hard-money financing and thousands of dollars wired to the United States from China. (Id.) In September 2016, law enforcement executed federal search warrants at the seven residences and seized more than 5, 000 marijuana plants. (Id. at ¶ 12.) In September 2016, Leonard Yang and three co-conspirators were indicted. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         In 2017, law enforcement identified Xiu Ping Li and others as participants in a large-scale marijuana cultivation and trafficking organization, and identified nine properties connected to their illegal activities. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Federal search warrants were executed at the nine properties in July 2017. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In September 2017, Xiu Ping Li was indicted along with several other individuals. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

         Following these federal investigations and indictments, state and local authorities searched a number of additional properties that were identified by the investigations as potentially tied to the organization under federal examination. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Ultimately, in 2017 and 2018, law enforcement executed search warrants at twelve properties in Calaveras County, including the defendant real property, and seized approximately 9, 711 marijuana plants and over 100 pounds of processed marijuana. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-21, 30.) Regarding the defendant real property, on January 11, 2018, law enforcement executed a state search warrant at the property and found an active marijuana grow that contained 1, 346 marijuana plants. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Yang, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the listed owner of the defendant real property and purchased the property for $360, 000 in June 2017. (Id.)

         The verified complaint alleges that defendant real property was used or intended to be used, to commit or to facilitate the commission of, a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, et seq. (prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, dispensing or possessing of a controlled or counterfeit substance), an offense punishable by more than one year's imprisonment, and therefore subject to forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 881(a)(6)-(7). (Id. at ¶¶ 34-35, 37.)

         Pursuant to order of this court filed April 12, 2018, notice of this action was published on the official internet government forfeiture site <> and ran for at least thirty consecutive days, as required by Rule G(4)(a)(iv)(C) of the Supplemental Rules of Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. (ECF Nos. 3 (Order) and 19 (Declaration of Publication).)

         The U.S. Marshals Service posted defendant property with the verified complaint and notice of complaint on April 27, 2018. (ECF No. 90-2 at ¶ 8; id. at 21.) On April 5, 2018, the Government recorded a Lis Pendens (Notice of Pending Action) against defendant real property with the Calaveras County Recorder. (ECF No. 12.)

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;On May 31, 2018, the U.S. Marshals Service attempted unsuccessfully to personally serve the complaint and related documents upon Yang at his last known address. (ECF No. 90-2 at &para; 6, Ex. B.) Personal service upon Yang was again attempted on June 8 and June 18, 2018; the documents were left at the residence on June 18, 2018. (Id.; see also ECF No. 63.) On April 23, 2018, copies of the complaint and related documents were sent by certified mail to Yang to his last ...

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