United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MILOWE ANGER OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY Attorney for
Plaintiff United States of America.
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case is a forfeiture in rem action for $25, 000 in United
States currency. Presently before the Court is
Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment and Final Order
of Forfeiture. There has been no response to this motion. For
the reasons expressed herein, the Plaintiff's requests
will be granted.
Court takes its facts from Plaintiff's Verified Complaint
(the “Complaint”) and the Declaration of Jordan
Anger, counsel for Plaintiff (the “Declaration”).
The facts underlying this case arose in May 2018. On May 16,
2018, a confidential source (“CS-1”) informed the
Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) that CS-1
received a phone call on May 12, 2018 from an individual
(“Individual-1”) who wished to purchase one
kilogram of cocaine. CS-1 told Individual-1 the price was
$27, 000 per kilogram. On May 17, 2018, Individual-1 told
CS-1 that he wished to meet later that day to purchase the
enforcement arranged for another confidential source
(“CS-2”) to act as CS-1's representative.
CS-2 agreed to meet with Individual-1 at the Premium Outlets
in Blackwood, New Jersey. That same day, law enforcement
recorded CS-2 meeting with Pedro Aybar and Christian
Meran-Valdez in the Premium Outlets parking lot.
and Meran-Valdez were observed in a blue, 2003 Acura MDX;
Aybar drove, Meran-Valdez was a passenger. When the two
arrived at the Premium Outlets, Meran-Valdez got out of the
car, approached CS-2 - who was standing beside a vending
machine, and told CS-2 he had the “tickets.”
Plaintiff asserts this was code for money. CS-2 asked to see
the “tickets” before he transferred the cocaine.
Meran-Valdez and CS-2 went to the Acura, CS-2 got in the
backseat, and Meran-Valdez introduced CS-2 to Aybar.
told CS-2 that he and Meran-Valdez had the money. On the rear
passenger seat floor, CS-2 found a red-and-white bag
containing $25, 000 in U.S. currency in stacks, wrapped in
rubber-bands. CS-2 said the price was $27, 000, but Aybar
stated $25, 000 was the agreed upon price. CS-2 directed
Aybar and Meran-Valdez to meet him at a different location to
retrieve the cocaine. The two attempted to follow CS-2, but
took an illegal u-turn and were pulled over by local law
and Meran-Valdez were questioned and gave conflicting
accounts about why they had traveled to the Premium Outlets
from New York City. Thereafter, Aybar gave local law
enforcement verbal and written consent to search the Acura.
They found the $25, 000 in U.S. Currency - the defendant
property - in a hidden compartment in the driver's side
rear passenger door and found red-and-white gift bags
matching the one described by CS-2.
Meran-Valdez and Aybar initially disclaimed ownership of the
defendant property. It was seized pursuant to 21 U.S.C.
§ 881(a)(6), under the theory that the money was
intended for use in a controlled substance transaction. The
DEA initiated administrative forfeiture proceeding against
the instant defendant in rem and Aybar filed a claim of
ownership on July 9, 2018. Aybar stated that he was the owner
of the property.
brought the instant action on September 25, 2018. There is
one claim, that of forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. §
881(a)(6). Notice was published on October 18, 2018 as
directed by law and remained on the official government site
until November 16, 2018. The Complaint and a Notice of
Complaint was sent to Aybar's counsel, Mitchell C. Elman,
on October 10, 2018 by Federal Express. It arrived on October
11, 2018. A warrant was returned executed for forfeiture on
November 1, 2018. On December 21, 2018, Plaintiff requested
default, the Clerk entered default, and Plaintiff filed the
instant motion for default judgment.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court has federal question jurisdiction over this case
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345.