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United States v. $144

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 6, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$144, 650 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY Defendant in rem.

OPINION

ESTHER SALAS, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff the United States of America's motion to strike the answer of would-be claimant Bradford Lee Carper and motion to enter default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. A(1)(B), A(2), G(8)(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). (D.E. No. 6).

The Court has considered the parties' submissions in support of and in opposition to the instant motion, and decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS the motion to strike the answer and construes the motion for entry of default judgment as a motion for entry of default. Thus, the Court will direct the Clerk to enter default against would-be claimant Carper.

II. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over this action commenced by the United States of America pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 28 U.S.C. § 1355(a). This Court has in rem jurisdiction over the Defendant Currency under 28 U.S.C. § 1355(b)(1).

III. Factual Background and Procedural History[1]

Plaintiff United States of America ("Plaintiff") brings this action to forfeit and condemn a total of $144, 650 in United States currency ("Defendant Currency") pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). Would-be claimant, Bradford Lee Carper ("Carper" or "Claimant") contests the forfeiture of this asset.

On or about April 12, 2012, at approximately 5:15 p.m., Transportation and Security Officers at Newark Liberty International Airport contacted agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") and advised them that they had recovered a large sum of United States currency from a passenger traveling to Los Angeles, California. (D.E. No. 1, Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 7). The DEA agents requested identification and received a California driver's license in the name of "Brad Lee Carper" whose address was 3132 H. Street, Sacramento, California. ( Id. ¶ 8). Plaintiff alleges that Carper told the DEA agents that he was an investor and that he was trying to buy depressed real estate in the Syracuse area. ( Id. ¶ 10). When questioned as to how much money he had in his possession, he responded that he had around $150, 000 but was unsure of the exact amount. ( Id. ¶ 11). The DEA agent asked to see the Defendant Currency, to which Carper agreed, and the agent observed six bundles of cash composed of mixed denominations, bound by a rubber band. ( Id. ¶ 18). At that time, the agent asked if he could request a canine check to which Carper allegedly agreed to. ( Id. ).

At approximately, 5:55 p.m. police officers arrived with a narcotics canine and the narcotics canine alerted law enforcement to the presence of narcotics in the bag containing the Defendant Currency. ( Id. ¶ 19). The agents informed Carper that the Defendant Currency was going to be seized by the DEA. ( Id. ¶ 33). The agents then placed the $144, 650 in United States currency in the DEA's possession at Newark Liberty International Airport, Elizabeth, New Jersey. ( Id. ¶ 2). The Defendant Currency is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's service. ( Id. ).

On September 12, 2012, within the 90 day period prescribed by 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(3)(A), the U.S. filed a Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem and Warrant for Arrest In Rem. (D.E. No. 1). Plaintiff filed the Notice of Forfeiture on September 19, 2012, stating that a claimant is required to file and serve a conforming claim on or before October 24, 2012. (D.E. No. 3). Plaintiff mailed the Notice of Forfeiture on September 19, 2012 to Mr. Gerald M. Saluti, Esq., in his capacity as agent for Claimant, by certified mail, return receipt requested and Mr. Saluti received the notice on September 20, 2012. (D.E. No. 11, Pl. Rep. Br., Ex. A, Transmittal Letter & Return Receipt).

On November 21, 2012, Claimant filed with this Court and served upon the Plaintiff a filing entitled "Verified Claim and Answer." (D.E. No. 5, Verified Claim and Answer Request for Jury Trial ("Claim")). Plaintiff then filed the instant motion to strike the ...


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