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Altman v. International Motor Sports Ass'n

filed: June 24, 1992; As Amended August 6, 1992.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ONE PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT: 456 CAFFERTY ROAD, TINICUM TOWNSHIP, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, AND ALL IMPROVEMENTS AND APPURTENANCES THEREON, AND ONE KEOUGH ACCOUNT/CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT IN THE NAME OF MARK A. WALYNETZ AT BUCKS COUNTY BANK (& TRUST) COMPANY, AND ANY AND ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF THE AFORESAID ASSETS; CLAIMANT MARK A. WALYNETZ, APPELLANT



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. Civil No. 89-8896). District Judge: Hon. Charles R. Weiner

Before: Greenberg, Nygaard and Weis, Circuit Judges

Author: Nygaard

NYGAARD, Circuit Judge

This is a civil forfeiture action brought by the United States of America under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) and (7) against appellant's house and his Keough account.*fn1 Mark A. Walynetz, appellant, filed a claim for the return of the property. Following a trial before the district court, sitting without a jury, a judgment of forfeiture was entered in favor of the United States. Walynetz appeals. We will affirm.

I.

The government presented evidence that Walynetz derived all or most of his income during the years 1979 through 1984 by importing and distributing marijuana. The government presented evidence that claimant purchased the house along with his partner in the drug trade, created a front corporation to launder drug proceeds, and made significant improvements to the house and large contributions to the Keough account. A witness against Walynetz was Robert Broff, Walynetz' partner in the drug trade for five years.

The district court concluded that the government met its burden of establishing probable cause to forfeit the assets. District Court's Memorandum and Order at 11-14 (DCMO). Walynetz produced anecdotal evidence of legitimate business ventures purporting to account for his income during the critical period. Nonetheless, Walynetz was unable to produce any documents to support these businesses' income, and could not legitimately account for the large income he claimed during this period. The district court concluded that Walynetz failed to meet his burden of proving that the house and the Keough account were acquired through a legitimate source of money.

II.

On appeal, Walynetz makes three arguments. First, he claims that the government did not meet its burden of showing probable cause for forfeiture because it did not show that the house was purchased and the Keough account was funded with money directly traceable to drug transactions. Second, he claims that his evidence of legitimate business ventures sufficiently rebutted the government's showing of probable cause for forfeiture. Last, he claims that the district court erred by its finding of fact number 34, describing the alleged use of an accountant to falsify tax returns for this period. Each of the arguments are without merit.

Walnetz' first argument, that the government must first show that assets subject to forfeiture are directly traceable to illegal drug transactions, is contrary to the law of this circuit. The claimant would impose upon the government the burden of showing the actual drug transactions from which the assets subject to forfeiture were derived. But we have held to the contrary:

In determining whether proceeds are traceable to drug transactions, '[t]here is no need to tie the [property] to proceeds of a particular identifiable elicit drug transaction. (citation omitted)

In determining whether probable cause exists for forfeiture,

all that is required is that a court be able to look at the 'aggregate' of the facts and find reasonable grounds to believe that the property probably was derived ...


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