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United States v. Medina

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

October 9, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMUEL ZUNIGA MEDINA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

          MARTIN REIDINGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Defendant's Verified Motion for the Return of Seized or Stolen Money and Property. [Doc. 174].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 17, 2016, the Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. [Doc. 93]. The Defendant entered into a plea agreement containing various waivers and stipulations, including that “[w]ith regard to each and every asset listed in the Bill of Indictment[1] or seized in a related investigation or administrative, state, or local action the defendant stipulates and agrees” to “its forfeiture . . . in a separate administrative proceeding.” [Doc. 89 at ¶ 9].

         On September 16, 2019, the Defendant, proceeding pro se, filed a Verified Motion for the Return of Seized or Stolen Money and Property. [Doc. 174]. The Defendant requests the return of the following items that he claims were seized from him during his arrest on March 1, 2016: (1) $16, 009 in U.S. Currency that was found inside a laptop computer bag in the vehicle; (2) $2, 100 in U.S. Currency that was found in the Defendant's pockets; (3) two iPhones; and (4) a Patagonia jacket. [Doc. 176 at 1-2]. On September 26, 2019, the Government filed its Response in Opposition to Defendant's Verified Motion for the Return of Seized or Stolen Money and Property. [Doc. 176]. The Government claims that it only has possession of the $16, 009 and the $2, 100. [Id. at 9-10].

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Defendant does not cite any legal authority in his motion, but the Court is obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally, “however inartfully pleaded[.]” Booker v. S.C. Dep't of Corr., 855 F.3d 533, 540 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). As such, the Court construes the Defendant's motion as one pursuant to Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

         “Rule 41 may be utilized to commence a civil equitable proceeding to recover seized property that the government has retained after the end of a criminal case.” United States v. Soza, 599 Fed.Appx. 69, 70 (4th Cir. 2015) (citation and quotation omitted omitted). A motion under Rule 41 “is proper only if the property is in the possession of the United States.” Id. Such a motion “is properly denied if the defendant is not entitled to lawful possession of the seized property, the property is contraband or subject to forfeiture or the government's need for the property as evidence continues” or if the “consented to [the property's] forfeiture through his plea agreement.” Id. (citation omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. $16, 009 in U.S. Currency

         The Defendant argues that there “was no forfeiture of any of the aforementioned items of property[, ]” including the $16, 009 in U.S. Currency. [Doc. 174 at 1]. A motion for return of property, however, will be denied if the Defendant consented to the forfeiture of the property. Soza, 599 Fed.Appx. at 70.

         In the plea agreement, the Defendant consented to forfeiture of “each and every asset listed in the Bill of Indictment.” [Doc. 89 at 3]. The Bill of Indictment listed the $16, 009 in U.S. Currency as “subject to forfeiture.” [Doc. 14 at 6-7]. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion will be denied with regard to the $16, 009 in U.S. Currency because he consented to its forfeiture. See Soza, 599 Fed.Appx. at 70.

         B. $2, 100 in U.S. Currency

         The Defendant argues that [t]he government has no entitlement to permanent detention of Defendant's property, ” including the $2, 100 in U.S. Currency seized ...


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