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United States v. Approximately $7

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
APPROXIMATELY $7, 500.00 IN U.S. CURRENCY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to Local Rule 302(c)(19) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The United States of America (“Government”) brings this in rem action seeking forfeiture, under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), of the defendant $7, 500 (“defendant currency”) as money furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance. Pending before the court is the Government's motion for entry of default judgment (ECF No. 12), which was submitted without a hearing under Local Rule 540(d). No opposition has been received. Upon review of the motion, supporting documents, 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 29, 2019. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint makes the following factual allegations:

         On or about April 11, 2018, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized the defendant currency. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The defendant currency is currently in the custody of the United States Marshals Service. (ECF No. 6.) Also on or about April 11, 2018, law enforcement conducted a postal interdiction operation during which time it identified a parcel that bore characteristics consistent with illegal drug trafficking, including a handwritten shipping label. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 5.) The package was presented to a dog trained to detect the odor of narcotics. (Id. at ¶ 6.) The dog positively alerted to the presence of the odor of narcotics. (Id. at ¶ 6.) The package was identified as addressed to JR Miller at 3021 East Oro Dam Blvd., Oroville, California 95966 with a return address to Kurtis Miller at 272 Loblolly Circle, Midway, Florida 32343. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

         On April 11, 2018, law enforcement contacted the sender, Kurtis Miller, who confirmed he sent the package and stated it contained $7, 500 in cash for his son Kurtis Miller, Jr. to start a landscaping business. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Kurtis Miller consented to having law enforcement open the package to inspect its contents. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Law enforcement opened the package and discovered an envelope containing a sealed yellow-padded envelope inside of which was a plastic bag with a candy box. (Id. at ¶ 8.) In the candy box was a stack of $7, 500 in cash wrapped in cellophane plastic. (Id. at ¶ 8.)

         Kurtis Miller, Jr. was contacted by law enforcement. (Id. at ¶ 9.) When asked about the package, Kurtis Miller, Jr. stated he was expecting a package from his brother, not his father, and did not know why a narcotics dog would alert on the package. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Kurtis Miller, Jr. did not know his father's address in Florida and did not know why his father would send cash instead of a check.

         Kurtis Miller, Sr. has a drug-related history dating back to 2005 that includes conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine, and possession and distribution of marijuana. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.)

         The Government seized the $7, 500 under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) as money furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance. (Id. at ¶ 14.)

         Pursuant to order of this court filed May 1, 2019, notice of this action was published on the official internet government forfeiture site <www.forfeiture.gov> 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 9 (Declaration of Publication).)

         On May 1, 2019, copies of the complaint and related documents were sent by first-class and certified mail to Kurtis Miller, Jr. to his last known address in Oroville, California. (ECF No. 12-1 at ¶ 3, Ex. A.) The certified mail envelope was returned as unclaimed on May 30, 2019. (Id.) The first-class mail package was not returned to the Government's office. (Id.) On May 13, 2019, Kurtis Miller, Jr. contacted the Government's office, confirmed receipt of the documents, and said he does not know anything about the defendant currency. (ECF No. 12-1 at ¶ 4.) The U.S. Marshals Service served real party in interest Kurtis Miller, Jr. with the verified complaint and notice of complaint on May 20, 2019 by leaving it with his brother at his last known address. (ECF No. 7.)

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;On May 1, 2019, copies of the complaint and related documents were sent by first-class and certified mail to Kurtis Miller, Sr. to his last known addresses in Midway, Florida and Tallahassee, Florida. (ECF No. 12-1 at &para;&para; 6-7, Exs. C-D.) The certified mail envelopes were returned showing delivering on May 15, 2019 and May 6, 2019, respectively. (Id.) The U.S. Marshals Service served real party in interest Kurtis Miller, Sr. with the ...


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