Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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. Bradley

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 22, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
BENJAMIN EDWARD HENRY BRADLEY

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.

         Before the court are the United States' Motion for Entry of a Preliminary Order of Forfeiture (Doc. No. 858) and Motion for an Order of Forfeiture of at Least a $1, 000, 000 United States Currency Money Judgment (Doc. No. 861). The defendant has now responded to both motions. (Doc. No. 958.) The United States filed a Reply, and the defendant, a Sur-reply. (Doc. Nos. 986, 996.) For the reasons set forth herein, the United States' motions will be granted.

         I. Background

         On March 3, 2015, the United States filed a two-count Indictment against the defendant, charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (Count One) and money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (Count Two). (Doc. No. 3.) The Indictment also contained forfeiture allegations, giving notice that, upon conviction, the defendants would be jointly and severally responsible for forfeiting to the United States any “property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of” the conspiracy to distribute drugs, “including but not limited to a money judgment in an amount to be determined, representing the gross drug proceeds obtained as a result of such offense, ” and “any property used, or intended to be used, . . . to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, such violation, ” pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(1) and (2). (Doc. No. 3, at 5.) The Indictment further provided for the forfeiture of any real or personal property involved in the conspiracy to commit money laundering or traceable to such property, “including but not limited to the proceeds of the violation and including but not limited to a money judgment in an amount to be determined” (Doc. No. 3, at 7), and for the forfeiture of substitute property in accordance with 21 U.S.C. § 853(p).

         On August 17, 2015, the United States filed a Bill of Particulars for Forfeiture of Property that identified specific assets to be forfeited, including currency in the amount of $46, 300 seized from 15540 Prevost Street, Detroit, Michigan, and approximately $78, 300 seized from 45669 Harmony Lane, Belleville, Michigan. (Doc. No. 279.) On May 19, 2016, the United States filed a Bill of Particulars for Forfeiture of Real Property, giving notice that it sought the forfeiture of real property located at and commonly known as 14425 Curtis, 14427 Curtis, 16617 Leisure, and 15355 Ohio Street, in Detroit, Michigan, and 45669 Harmony Lane, Belleville, Michigan. (Doc. No. 432.)

         The defendant, Benjamin Bradley, entered a guilty plea to both counts of the Indictment on June 8, 2016 (see Order accepting Plea Petition, Doc. No. 478), and, after several postponements, sentencing was scheduled for February 1, 2017 (Order, Doc. No. 784). The United States filed the forfeiture motions and accompanying memoranda on January 31, 2017, one day before the sentencing, making them, as the government acknowledged during the sentencing hearing, somewhat “tardy.” (Doc. No. 919, at 5.) At the sentencing hearing, the government represented that it intended to introduce whatever factual proof it had on forfeiture and, specifically, that the evidence would “establish a nexus between the Subject Property and the crimes of conviction.” (Id.)

         In discussing the issue of forfeiture, the court recognized on the record that the applicable rule requires that, “[a]s soon as practical . . . after a plea of guilty . . ., the court must determine what property is subject to forfeiture.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(1)(A). (See Doc. No. 191, at 282.) The court also noted that, if forfeiture is contested, “at either party's request the Court is to conduct a hearing and the Court is to enter the preliminary order sufficiently in advance of sentencing to allow the parties to suggest revisions or modifications before the order becomes final as to the defendant.” (Doc. No. 191, at 282 (referencing Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(1)(A)).) Because the defendant had not had the opportunity to respond to the government's forfeiture motions, the court established a briefing schedule and stated that it would “rule on the papers” unless the defendant requested a hearing. (Id.) The motions have now been fully briefed and are ripe for review. The defendant has not requested a hearing, but he contends that the United States has failed to carry its burden of proof to support the forfeiture of the real property located at 45669 Harmony Lane, Belleville, Michigan.

         II. Legal Standards

         The criminal forfeiture statute provides that an individual convicted of a drug-related felony or money laundering (among other crimes) “shall forfeit to the United States . . . any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds the person obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of such violation, ” and any property used or intended to be used to commit or facilitate the commission of the crime of conviction. 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(1) & (2). Courts construe § 853 liberally in order to effectuate its remedial purpose. United States v. Darji, 609 F. App'x 320, 332 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing 21 U.S.C. § 853(o)).

         Criminal forfeiture is part of a defendant's sentence, to be imposed as provided by statute. 21 U.S.C. § 853(a); United States v. Hall, 411 F.3d 651, 654 (6th Cir. 2005). If, as here, the government “include[s] notice of the forfeiture in the indictment or information, ” and “the defendant is convicted of the offense giving rise to the forfeiture, the court shall order the forfeiture of the property as part of the sentence in the criminal case, ” in accordance with the procedures set out in § 853. 28 U.S.C. § 2461(c). “The indictment . . . need not identify the property subject to forfeiture or specify the amount of any forfeiture money judgment that the government seeks.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(a).

         The criminal forfeiture statute creates a “rebuttable presumption” that any property of a defendant convicted of a felony drug offense or money laundering is subject to forfeiture, so long as the United States establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant acquired the property “during the period of the [criminal] violation”, “or within a reasonable time after such period”, and that “there was no likely source for such property other than” the offenses of conviction. 21 U.S.C. § 853(d).

         Moreover, title to property subject to forfeiture vests in the United States “upon the commission of the act giving rise to forfeiture.” 21 U.S.C. § 843(c). Consequently, if the defendant transfers the forfeitable property to a third person after commission of the offense, that property “may be the subject of a special verdict of forfeiture and thereafter shall be ordered forfeited to the United States, unless the transferee establishes in a hearing . . . that he is the bona fide purchaser for value of such property who at the time of purchase was reasonably without cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture.” Id.

         In the event that property subject to forfeiture under § 853(a) cannot be located or has been sold or transferred to a third party, “the court shall order the forfeiture of any other property of the defendant, up to the value of any property” that has been sold or transferred or cannot be located. Id. § 843(p)(2).

         Finally, to protect the interests of third parties, the United States must publish notice of any order of forfeiture and of its intent to dispose of the property. Thereafter, “[a]ny person, other than the defendant, asserting a legal interest in property which has been ordered forfeited to the United States pursuant to this section may . . . petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of his alleged interest in the property.” Id. § 843(n)(2). If the third-party petitioner is able to establish at the hearing that he or she had a valid and superior legal interest in the property “at the time of the commission of the acts which gave rise to the forfeiture of the property” and that “renders the order of forfeiture invalid in whole or in part, ” or that he or she is “a bona fide purchaser for value of the right, title, or interest in ...


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.