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United States v. One Parcel of Property Described

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

January 26, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ONE PARCEL OF PROPERTY DESCRIBED AS 21279 VANTAGE POINT DR., LAKE PRESTON, KINGSBURY COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA, with all appurtenances, fixtures, attachments, and improvements thereon; 2005 MERCURY MARQUIS, VIN #2MEHM75W65X618511; and $147, 594.22 in GOLD COINS, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO STRIKE

KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, United States of America, pursuant to Rule G(8)(c) of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, moves to strike the verified claim asserted by Arthur J. Maurello, Graf Werner Stamphaus (GWS), and J.J.F. Fine Arts Corp. (JJF). The government alleges that the claimants do not have statutory standing to challenge the forfeiture action. Docket 92. Alternatively, the government moves to strike the verified claim asserted by JJF on the basis that it lacks Article III standing. Id. The claimants resist the motion as it pertains to statutory standing. For the following reasons, the government’s motion is granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 26, 2012, the government filed a complaint seeking civil forfeiture of the following property: real property located in Lake Preston, South Dakota, a 2005 Mercury Marquis, and $147, 594.22 in gold coins. Docket 1. The government seeks forfeiture under 31 U.S.C. § 5317(c)(2) because the property was allegedly “involved in structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements, involved in a conspiracy to evade reporting requirements, or is property traceable to violations of Section 5324 of title 31[.]” Docket 1 at ¶ 31. On December 13, 2012, Maurello filed a verified claim to contest the forfeiture action. Docket 25. In the verified claim, Maurello asserts ownership of the property individually, as principal of GWS, and as a corporate officer of JJF.[1]Id. Maurello filed the verified claim, pro se, while serving a term of incarceration stemming from an unrelated criminal conviction.

DISCUSSION

The government seeks to strike the claimants’ verified claim under Rule G(8)(c)(i)(A) and (B), which provide the following:

(i) At any time before trial, the government may move to strike a claim or answer:
(A) for failing to comply with Rule G(5) or (6), or
(B) because the claimant lacks standing.

Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. R. G(8)(c)(i)(A)-(B). The government first argues that the claimants have failed to comply with Rule G(5).

Rule G(5) details the requirements necessary to file a verified claim in opposition to a forfeiture action instituted by the government. A claimant can contest a forfeiture action by asserting a verified claim in the following manner:

(i) 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. The claim must:
(A) identify the specific property claimed;
(B) identify the claimant and state the claimant’s interest ...

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