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United States v. Coleman

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 12, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Carlos Nashun Coleman, Defendant.

          Benjamin Bejar, Craig R. Baune, & Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, United States Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Ryan M. Pacyga, Pacyga and Associates, PA, for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on Defendant Coleman's Letter Requesting Return of Property (“Def's Motion”) [Doc. No. 385]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's Motion in part as to his backpack, bank statements, identification card, and bank cards and denies Defendant's Motion in part as to the $5, 680 in United States currency. His wrist watch was returned to counsel in September of 2018 and his bracelets and rings were never seized.

         I. Background

         On February 28, 2018, members of the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) and the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force took Defendant into custody on a state arrest warrant pending federal indictment. (Decl. of Sean R. Harvey (“Harvey Decl.”) [Doc. No. 415] ¶¶ 3-6.) After his arrest, officers executed nine federal search and seizure warrants on the Defendant's houses and car. (Id. ¶ 6.) Inside Defendant's Audi Q7, officers found and seized a backpack that contained $5, 680, bank statements, an identification card, and bank cards. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8; Gov't Mem. in Response [Doc. No. 414].) Officers also seized a watch, which was later returned to Defendant's attorney on September 17, 2018. (Id. ¶ 10.) Officers did not seize any of Defendant's bracelets or rings, but instead left these items at the location of the arrest. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On April 25, 2018, Defendant was sent notice of the administrative forfeiture for the seized currency via certified mail at his place of incarceration, Sherburne County Jail. (Id. ¶ 12.) The return receipt was signed on April 30, 2018. (Decl. of Craig R. Baune (“Baune Decl.”) [Doc. No. 416] ¶ 2, Ex. B.) A copy of the notice was also mailed to his attorney, Ryan Pacyga. (Harvey Decl. ¶ 12.) Defendant did not file a claim in the administrative forfeiture proceeding.

         On May 10, 2018, Defendant filed a Petition for Remission or Mitigation for Pardon of the Property in Forfeiture Proceedings (“Petition for Remission”). (Harvey Decl. ¶ 13). The DEA issued a declaration of forfeiture for the $5, 680 on July 18, 2018. (Baune Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A.) Five months later, on December 18, 2018, the DEA denied Defendant's Petition for Remission. (Harvey Decl. ¶ 14.)

         On March 6, 2018, Defendant was indicted and charged with one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin (Count 1) and one count of Distribution of Heroin (Count 15) by a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Minnesota. (Indictment [Doc. No. 1].) The forfeiture allegations of the Indictment provided notice that the United States sought the forfeiture of any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds Defendant obtained directly or indirectly as the result of the violations alleged in Counts 1 and 15, and any property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part to commit or to facilitate the commission of those violations. (Id.) The Indictment did not specifically list the $5, 680.

         On September 13, 2018, Defendant pled guilty to Count 15 of the Indictment, which charged him with distribution of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). (Plea Agreement [Doc. No. 282].) Through his plea agreement, Defendant agreed to forfeit “all property constituting, or derived from, proceeds obtained from Count 1 of the Indictment, and all property used, in any manner or part, to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offense.” (Id. ¶ 9.)

         On December 19, 2018, Defendant filed this Motion requesting the return of his backpack, bank statements, identification card, bank cards, wrist watch, bracelets and rings, and $5, 680 in United States currency that he alleged were seized by law enforcement the day of his arrest. (Def.'s Mot. at 1.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Defendant's Currency

         The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (“CAFRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 983(e), dictates that “a motion filed under this subsection shall be the exclusive remedy for seeking to set aside a declaration of ...


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