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 of America v. $72

April 3, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
$72,050.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, ONE FIRST SOUTHERN NATIONAL BANK CASHIERS CHECK #062629 IN THE AMOUNT OF $60,649.64, AND ONE WHITAKER BANK CASHIERS CHECK #022175 IN THE AMOUNT OF $100,000.00, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AMENDED AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court upon the Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 28] filed in this case by the United States of America. Claimant Vernon Smith has filed a Response [DE 31], and the United States has filed a Reply in further support of its Motion [DE 32]. Claimant Vernon Smith also seeks leave to late-file a Motion for Summary Judgment, to which the United States has objected, and he has filed a reply in further support and has tendered the pleadings which would be filed if leave were granted [DE 34, 35, 36, 37, 38], including a Motion for an Extension of Time to late-file the perhaps late-filed but ultimately only tendered Reply [DE 39; see also DE 40, United States Response to Motion for Extension of Time to File Reply; DE 41, Claimant's Reply in Further Support].

As an initial matter, the Court concludes that Vernon Smith's efforts to move for summary judgment were woefully out of time and his efforts to supplement discovery already taken and concluded are not to be applauded. That said, considering the late date, the Court has considered those portions of these filings which are relevant to the inquiries before it -- by which the Court means that it will not consider them insofar as they constitute a collateral attack on the issues at bar and on appeal in Frankfort Criminal Action No. 08-31-JMH. There is a place and a method for challenging issues in that matter, and the Court does not consider the two matters interchangeable although they are related. The Court grants his motion to late file a motion for summary judgment and has considered, as well, the pleadings as materials offered in further support of his objections to the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Accordingly, the Court considers whether forfeiture of certain currency and two cashier's checks, found in the home of Claimant Vernon Smith, is appropriate. The United States bears the initial burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture, 18 U.S.C. § 983(c), i.e., that it is more likely than not (1) that the defendant property was proceeds traceable to a scheme or artifice to defraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343 or (2) that it was involved in a transaction in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957 or 1960. If the United States meets its initial burden, then the claimant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is not proceeds of the illegal activity or that he is an innocent owner. 18 U.S.C. § 983(d).

The Court concludes, as an initial matter, that the United States has not met its burden of proof with respect to the currency but that it has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the cashier's checks were proceeds traceable to a scheme or artifice to defraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343, for the reasons which follow. The Court then concludes that Claimant Vernon Smith has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that those cashier's checks were not the proceeds of illegal activity or that he is an innocent owner, as that term is defined in the statute.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On August 9, 2007, the defendant cashier's checks and currency were seized pursuant to a search warrant executed at claimant Vernon Smith's residence. It is undisputed that the defendant currency and cashier's checks were located in a safe in the basement of a house occupied by Vernon Smith during a search executed during the investigation which led to Frankfort Criminal Action 08-31-JMH, United States v. Michael D. Smith, et al. That case was tried before a jury in June and July 2010, and Michael D. Smith and Christopher Cello Smith -- the sons of Claimant Vernon Smith -- were convicted on a number of counts of fraud arising out of the sale of oil and gas interests to investors in a company called Target Oil and Gas. Michael D. Smith was also convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud. At trial, the jury considered whether Michael D. Smith and Christopher Cello Smith's interests in the cash and cashier's checks, which are the defendants in this matter, were subject to forfeiture and concluded that only their interest in the cashier's checks was subject to forfeiture.*fn1

Meanwhile, on November 9, 2007, Vernon Smith filed claims to the two cashier's checks and currency with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in a non-judicial forfeiture proceeding against the property. This civil forfeiture action in rem was filed against the defendant property on February 7, 2008, to enforce the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A) for the forfeiture of personal property which was involved in a transaction in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957 or 1960; and/or is property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343, and thereby subject to forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(C).

Vernon Smith, through counsel, filed a claim and an answer. This civil action remained stayed pending the outcome of the related criminal investigation and prosecution, Frankfort Criminal Action No. 08-31-JMH. At the conclusion of that criminal prosecution, the Court lifted the stay in the present case, discovery took place, and the matter is now before the Court upon the parties' motions.

B. Cashier's Check #062629

The defendant cashier's check 062629, in the amount of $60,649.64, was purchased by claimant Vernon Smith using a check drawn on his account 30027263 at First Southern National Bank on September 19, 2005, at which time his account was closed. The cashier's check shows a remitter as "close account # 30027063" and is payable to Vernon Smith. From the time the account was opened in 1999 through April 2003, the balance in the account ranged from $8,000.00 to $10,010.12. Four deposits were then made from May 20, 2003, through August 11, 2004, totaling $49,700.00.

The first of these deposits, on May 20, 2003, involved the deposit of $6,000 from a Citizens National Bank of Jessamine County cashier's check (27039) dated May 13, 2003, remitted by Michael Smith, payable to Michael Smith, and endorsed by Michael Smith.*fn2

Cashier's check 27039 was purchased with funds from Target Oil & Gas Operating Account 2016443 at Citizens National Bank of Jessamine County. Funds deposited in Account 2016443, which covered the cost of cashier's check 27039 were deposits of investor funds.

The second deposit, in the amount of $41,000, which was made on July 31, 2003, was from a Citizens National Bank of Jessamine County cashier's check 27165 dated July 31, 2003, remitted by Target Oil & Gas, payable to Michael Smith, and endorsed by "Mike Smith by Vernon Smith" with a signature that may well be that of Vernon Smith. Cashier's check 27165 was purchased with funds from Target Oil & Gas Operating Account 2016443 at Citizens National Bank of Jessamine County. Again, the source of all funds deposited in the account, which covered the cost of cashier's check 27165, were deposits of investor funds.

The third deposit, in the amount of $2,200, was made on June 21, 2004, from a check made payable to Mike Smith by Olen Lee Cornette and endorsed by Mike Smith. The fourth deposit, in the amount of $500.00, resulted from a split deposit of a $961.21 check made payable to Mike Smith from Blue Grass Stockyards, Inc., of which $461.21 was returned in cash. Over time, the funds in the account earned interest of $939.52.

As for the cashier's checks 27039 and 27165 deposited in FSNB Account 30027063 on May 20, 2003, and July 31, 2003, they were paid for with funds drawn from the Target Oil & Gas Operating Account No. 2016443 at Citizens Bank. The United States has offered evidence of the statement period from May 1, 2003, through May 30, 2003, for that account. This statement period encompasses the time periods in which cashier's check 27039 and 27165 were purchased.

Cashier's check 27039 was purchased using Target Oil and Gas Corp. Check 11498 in the amount of $12,000.00 drawn on that account, dated May 13, 2003, signed by Michael Smith. The withdrawal from account 2016443 was posted on May 13, 2003. There were twenty-three deposits made to account 2016443 in the statement period, and the United States has presented evidence that each of the investor checks were deposited either directly to the Operating Account or first deposited to one of several other business savings accounts of Target Oil & Gas (3095452, 306394, and 3096769) and then transferred to account 2016443. Each of the deposits to the respective savings accounts from which deposits were received into 2016443 during this period were determined to have been deposits of investor checks. There was a negative balance in account 2016443 at the beginning of the statement period ...


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.