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United States v. Chase

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

April 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
(1) STEVEN W. CHASE

          AMENDED PRELIMINARY ORDER OF FORFEITURE

          RICHARD L. VOORHEES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the United States of America's Motion for Preliminary Order of Forfeiture. The United States requests, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2253(a)(3), Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b), and the Special Verdict (Doc. 99) on forfeiture, that this Court order forfeiture of the following properties that the United States contends constitute properties used or intended to be used to commit or promote the commission of the Count One 18 U.S.C. § 2251 A(g) offense of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and the Count Three 18 U.S.C. § 2251(d) offense of advertising child pornography:

• One ASUS laptop, serial number E1N0CV090739012 (hereafter, “ASUS Laptop”);
• One Cruzer 128GB thumbdrive (hereafter, “Cruzer Thumbdrive”); and
• The real property at 3570 15th Avenue, SW, Naples, Florida, identified in a deed to Steve Chase and Barbara Chase, husband and wife, recorded at Book 2337, Page 0771 of the Collier County Clerk of the Circuit Court, also known as Parcel 37988440001, and more particularly described as follows:
THE EAST 105' OF THE EAST 180' OF TRACT 90, UNIT 27, GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, ACCORDING TO A PLAT THEREOF RECORDED IN PLAT BOOK 7, PAGES 17 AND 18, OF THE PUBLIC RECORDS OF COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA.

(hereafter, “Naples Residence”).

         For good cause, this Court GRANTS the Motion. In support of this Order, the Court FINDS AS

         FOLLOWS:

         BACKGROUND

         On August 19, 2015, a Grand Jury in the Western District of North Carolina returned a Second Superseding Indictment (Doc. 31; hereafter, “Indictment”) against Defendant and others, charging Defendant with, inter alia, engaging in a child exploitation enterprise as set forth in Count One; a conspiracy to advertise child pornography as set forth in Count Two; advertising child pornography as set forth in Count Three; transporting child pornography as set forth in Count Four; transporting child pornography as set forth in Count Five; transporting child pornography as set forth in Count Six; and possessing child pornography as set forth in Count Seven. The charges were based on Defendant's role as administrator of a worldwide child pornography website known as “Playpen” on the TOR network on the so-called “dark-web.” The Government contends that Playpen facilitated the worldwide sharing of in excess of approximately 100, 000 in images among in excess of 150, 000 Playpen users.

         The Indictment also contained a “Notice of Forfeiture and Finding of Probable Cause” whereby the Grand Jury found probable cause that the Naples Residence was subject to forfeiture. Defendant resided at the Naples Residence during the course of the offenses. Further, the Naples Residence was titled to Defendant and his deceased spouse.

         Defendant pled not guilty and elected a jury trial. Ahead of trial, the Government filed a Notice of Proposed Jury Instructions and Verdict Sheet (Doc. 88) and a Trial Brief (Doc. 90), informing Defendant and the Court that the Government intended to pursue forfeiture of, not only the Naples Residence, but also the ASUS Laptop and Cruzer Thumbdrive, all such forfeitures based on the allegation that Defendant used these items to promote his Count One, Count Two, and Count Three offenses.[1] Defendant elected (Doc. 89) to retain the Jury to decide forfeiture.

         During the criminal trial, the Government introduced and the Court admitted evidence that established, ...


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