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United States v. Six Hundred Fourteen Thousand Three Hundred Thirty-Eight Dollars and No Cents ($614

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SIX HUNDRED FOURTEEN THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED THIRTY-EIGHT DOLLARS AND NO CENTS ($614, 338.00) IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant in rem.

          Charles M. Oberly, III and Lesley F. Wolf, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          John P. Deckers, JOHN P. DECKERS, ESQ., Wilmington, DE Attorney for Claimant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is Shawn Baker's motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 16, 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") seized $614, 338.00 from Shawn Baker during a traffic stop.[1] (See D.L 1 at ¶¶ 4-14; D.I. 16-1 at 8) The DEA subsequently initiated an administrative forfeiture action as required by the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, 18 U.S.C. § 983, providing notice of seizure to Baker, dated August 10, 2015. (See D.L 16-1 at 8) Baker submitted a claim of ownership under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(2), which was received by the DEA on August 31, 2015. (See Id. at 10-11, 16) As relevant here, Baker swore under penalty of perjury that he "is the lawful owner of said Property and/or possessed the Property with the knowledge and consent of another person." (Id. at 11-12) The DEA, however, notified Baker by letter dated September 21, 2015, that his claim was defective for failing to properly state his interest in the property. (See Id. at 19) The letter indicated that a "[c]laimant may not state his/her interest in the alternative, " and provided Baker twenty days to cure the noted deficiency. (Id. at 19-20)

         On October 12, 2015, Baker submitted a revised claim, which removed the and/or language and stated that he "owned and obtained and possessed the Property with the knowledge and consent of another person." (Id. at 31) Baker also commented that his "submission of a revised claim form ... is not an admission by Claimant that the initial claim filed by him on August 26, 2015 .. . was legally defective." (Id. at 28) Baker maintained that his earlier claim "comports with the law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(2)(C)(ii), and [the DEA] has failed to provide legal authority to state otherwise." (Id.) But Baker nevertheless supplied the revised documents "to expedite the processing of this claim." (Id.) The DEA received the claim on October 13, 2015. (Id. at 33)

         Two actions in this Court relate to the DEA's seizure of Baker's currency. On December 15, 2015, Baker filed a motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), seeking return of $616, 366.00 - the amount of currency at issue here plus the $2, 028 that has now been returned to Baker. (See 15-mc-338-LPS D.I. 1) In that motion, Baker argued that the United States failed to file a civil judicial complaint within 90 days of receiving his claim, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(3)(A). (Id. at ¶ 4) Baker contended that the relevant date from which to measure 90 days is August 31, 2015, the date the DEA received his first claim, which the DEA deemed defective. (Id. at ¶ 3)

         The United States filed the complaint in the present case on December 22, 2015, seeking forfeiture of the seized currency, within the 90-day period starting from the date of Baker's second claim. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 1) Because the two actions concern the same seized currency, Baker stipulated to dismissing without prejudice the first action (see 15-mc-338-LPS D.I. 8), "[f]or purposes of judicial economy only" (D.I. 16 at 4).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the Court may grant such a morion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         However, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).'" Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a plaintiff s claim. Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter School Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions, " Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist.,132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, " Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co.,113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997), or allegations that are ...


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