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Burgess v. Ebay Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 8, 2017

EBAY CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          Albert Charles Burgess, Jr., FCI Butner Low, Butner, North Carolina. Pro Se Plaintiff.


          ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Albert Charles Burgess, Jr., an inmate at FCI Butner Low (a low security federal correctional institution), in Butner, North Carolina, filed this action alleging violations of his constitutional rights. He claims jurisdiction by reason of diversity of citizenship. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4, 6). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint (D.I. 2) and its addendum (D.I. 9) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).


         Burgess was arrested on March 6, 2008. (D.I. 9 at Ex. 3 p.2). In November 2009, he was convicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina of two felonies involving the receipt and possession of materials depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. See United States v. Burgess, Crim. No. 1:09-00017-GCM-DLH-1 (W.D. N.C. ) at D.I. 185. Burgess was sentenced to a prison term of 292 months, supervised release for life, and restitution. Id. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence, but vacated the restitution order. See United States v. Burgess, 684 F.3d 445, 460 (4th Cir.), cert, denied, 133 S.Ct. 490 (2012). Burgess is currently incarcerated at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

         The Complaint, filed on February 6, 2017, alleges that Burgess had accounts with Defendants eBay Corporation and PayPal Corporation beginning in 2003 until 2008. (D.l.2at2). Burgess signed a user agreement with both Defendants. He closed his PayPal account in 2004 after he was "charged repeatedly with site memberships to child pornography web sites." (Id.). Burgess alleges that in July 2007, Defendants caused the closed account to be temporarily opened and "somehow, some agent of the Defendants, created a sale by the Plaintiff to a web site that was illegal." (Id.). When Burgess learned of the sale, it was canceled and the money paid was refunded. (Id.).

         Burgess alleges that Defendants were partners with law enforcement (including federal agents), and that Defendants reported to law enforcement that Burgess had purchased the site. (Id. at 2, 5). Burgess alleges his arrest by law enforcement was based upon Defendants' false assertions and falsification of records. (Id. at 2). Burgess alleges that "at no time [did he engage] in buying illegal sites from [Defendants], yet their words were taken as FACT when in fact they were lies." (Id.).

         Burgess alleges that the user agreements he entered into with Defendants did not "mention" they were "law enforcement partners, " and he was not "advised that he had surrendered his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizures and searches by subscribing to Defendants' website/businesses." (Id. at 3). Burgess alleges that Defendants' failure to advise customers that Defendants worked as "undercover police officers" violates his right to due process. (Id. at 4-5).

         Burgess alleges that Defendants are a criminal money laundering enterprise that is continuing in nature, but are protected from prosecution because of their work as law enforcement partners. (Id. at 3). Burgess alleges that at his criminal trial, Defendants' actions were concealed, but later, after the trial, their involvement became known, and that an immunity agreement which exists between Defendants and the United States Attorney will not be released via FOIA. (Id.). Burgess alleges that he is currently incarcerated because Defendants are able to illegally cover up their money laundering activities in exchange for illegally targeting persons who cannot defend themselves. (Id. at 4).

         Burgess alleges violations of his constitutional rights, violation of civil rights statutes, breach of contract, and that damages are continuing in nature as a result of the breach. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The addendum to the complaint states, "[t]his is NOT an attempt at challenging my conviction. This is a civil action to punish the players in deceiving the public and the Plaintiff." (D.I. 9 at 2).


         A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

         An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough,184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court must grant ...

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