Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. $579

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 10, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
$579, 475.00 in U.S. Currency Defendant LNG Express, Inc. Claimant - Appellant

          Submitted: September 21, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock

          Before COLLOTON, BENTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.


         LNG Express, Inc. (LNG) appeals the district court's[1] order striking its verified claim in this civil forfeiture proceeding. We conclude that LNG's verified claim is materially indistinguishable from the claim a panel of our court found inadequate in United States v. $154, 853.00 in U.S. Currency, 744 F.3d 559 (8th Cir. 2014). We therefore affirm.

         In September 2014, an Arkansas State Police officer initiated a traffic stop of a tractor trailer in Faulkner County, Arkansas. After the driver consented to a search of the truck, the officer found and seized two boxes containing a total of $579, 475.00 in U.S. currency. The truck's drivers both disclaimed any knowledge of or interest in the currency.

         Believing the currency to be "drug money, " the government filed a verified complaint in the district court, seeking forfeiture of the currency under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). LNG filed a timely verified claim, averring in relevant part:

1. [LNG] has a claim to, interest in, and right to the property seized herein, specifically the defendant-in-rem, $579, 475.00 in United States Currency, and demands its restitution and return.
2. The interest of [LNG] in the defendant-in-rem by virtue of which [LNG] demands its restitution, its return, and the right to defend the action is all of the right, title, and interest in said defendant-in-rem as the owner thereof.

         The government moved to strike LNG's verified claim, presenting its motion as a motion for judgment on the pleadings.[2] The government argued that it was entitled to judgment on the pleadings because LNG's verified claim failed to meet the threshold pleading requirement set forth in Rule G(5) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. According to the government, the verified claim did not identify LNG's interest in the currency with sufficient specificity. The district court granted the government's motion over LNG's opposition, and struck LNG's verified claim, finding it insufficient to meet Supplemental Rule G(5)'s threshold pleading requirement. In the absence of any other claims, the district court thereafter entered a decree of forfeiture, vesting title to the currency in the government.

         After the government initiates a civil forfeiture proceeding, a "person who asserts an interest in the defendant property may contest the forfeiture by filing a claim in the court where the action is pending." Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. R. G(5)(a)(i). "The claim must: (A) identify the specific property claimed; (B) identify the claimant and state the claimant's interest in the property; (C) be signed by the claimant under penalty of perjury; and (D) be served on the government attorney . . . ." Id. "At any time before trial, the government may move to strike a claim . . . for failing to comply with Rule G(5) . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. R. G(8)(c)(i).

         We review the district court's striking of a claim in a civil forfeiture proceeding for an abuse of discretion. $154, 853.00, 744 F.3d at 562. "An abuse of discretion occurs when the district court rests its conclusions on clearly erroneous factual findings or erroneous legal conclusions." Id. (quoting Lankford v. Sherman, 451 F.3d 496, 503-04 (8th Cir. 2006)). When ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the district court must accept the claimant's factual allegations as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the claimant's favor. Saterdalen v. Spencer, 725 F.3d 838, 841 (8th Cir. 2013). The district court generally may not consider materials outside the pleadings, but it may consider some public records, materials that do not contradict the complaint, or materials that are "necessarily embraced by the pleadings." Id. (quoting Noble Sys. Corp. v. Alorica Cent., LLC, 543 F.3d 978, 982 (8th Cir. 2008)).

         The government argues that our previous panel opinion in United States v. $154, 853.00 in U.S. Currency is dispositive in this appeal. In $154, 853.00, the claimant initially filed a verified claim "claim[ing] the seized U.S. Currency in the amount of $154, 853, more or less, " and attesting that he "ha[d] an ownership and possessory interest in the seized U.S. currency." 744 F.3d at 561. The government moved to strike the claimant's initial verified claim for failure to sufficiently state his interest in the currency as required by Supplemental Rule G(5). Id. The district court granted the government's first motion to strike, but granted the claimant leave to file an amended verified claim. Id. at 562. In his amended verified claim, the claimant averred, in relevant part, that he "ha[d] an ownership and possessory interest in the seized U.S. Currency. $4, 500 more or less of the U.S. Currency was found on Claimant's person and earned by Claimant through his employment." Id. The district court also struck the amended verified claim. Id.

         In $154, 853.00, we concluded that the district court had not abused its discretion by striking the claimant's first verified claim, reiterating this court's requirement that "[t]he claimant's interest in the property must be stated with some level of specificity." Id. (citing United States v. Three Parcels of Real Prop., 43 F.3d 388, 391-93 (8th Cir. 1994) and United States v. $104, 674.00, 17 F.3d 267, 268-69 (8th Cir. 1994)). More particularly, we described the claimant's assertion of "an ownership and possessory interest in the seized U.S. currency" as "only a general assertion of his interest" in the funds, which provided "no level of specificity" and "did not sufficiently identify his interest." Id. at 563. We then held that the claimant's amended verified complaint had sufficiently stated a "colorable ownership interest" in $4, 500 of the seized funds, in light of its additional attestation that the claimant had earned that portion of the funds "through his employment." Id. at 564. This was because the claimant "would certainly have an ownership interest in earned income." Id. In light of the additional averment that $4, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.