United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
in rem civil forfeiture matter is before the Court
on Paintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 12),
seeking to have the claim filed by Claimant Paul Dones
stricken, and this action dismissed. The motion is fully
briefed (Docs. # 14 and 15) and ripe for review. For the
reasons stated herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment is
granted, and this action is stricken
from the Court's docket.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case arises out of a seizure of money that took place at the
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
(“CVG”) on September 1, 2017. (Doc. # 1 at 1). On
that day, Kyle Dones (“Kyle”) was flying from
Chicago to San Francisco and connecting through CVG. (Doc. #
1-2 at 2). Kyle had purchased a one-way ticket the day
before. Id. The characteristics of the ticket
purchase, as well as Kyle's prior criminal history (two
arrests for trafficking marijuana and a felony firearm
charge) and his destination in a “known source
city/state” aroused suspicion. Id.
result, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force
Officer (TFO) Richard C. Bernecker, TFO Bill Conrad, and CVG
Airport Police Department Detective Ken Coyle went to the
departure gate for the flight to San Francisco. Id.
at 1-2. Detective Coyle identified Kyle as tickets were
scanned. Id. at 2. TFO Bernecker approached Kyle,
and Kyle agreed to speak with law enforcement. Id.
TFO Bernecker asked Kyle if he was carrying large quantities
of money, drugs, or other contraband. Id. at 2-3.
Kyle indicated that he was not carrying any such items, but,
according to TFO Bernecker's affidavit, looked nervous
during the encounter. Id. at 3. When asked about his
trip, Kyle informed TFO Bernecker that he was going to San
Francisco for work. Id.
then gave TFO Bernecker permission to search him and his
bags. Id. The search turned up two cell phones, as
well as stacks of U.S. currency which lined the walls of
Kyle's suitcase. Id. When asked by TFO Bernecker
how much money Kyle had and why Kyle denied having a large
quantity of currency, Kyle responded that he was carrying
$9000 to buy a car in San Francisco. Id. TFO
Bernecker reminded Kyle he stated earlier that he was going
to San Francisco for work, and Kyle then replied he was going
to purchase a 2005 Mercedes Benz but had no proof of
asked about where the money came from, Kyle stated he was a
professional musician, but Kyle provided no proof of such
employment. Id. Kyle also told TFO Bernecker that he
had not paid taxes that year, and the money was a loan from
his grandmother. Id. at 3-4. Kyle refused to provide
TFO Bernecker with his grandmother's phone number to
confirm his story. Id. at 4.
Bernecker then asked Kyle for permission to search his cell
phone. Id. Kyle would not give such permission, and
TFO Bernecker claims Kyle “attempted to erase something
from his cell phone” before it was seized. Id.
Kyle denied ever being arrested for something connected to
narcotics, and then refused to answer further questions and
requested his lawyer. Id.
Kyle's conversation with TFO Bernecker, TFO Bernecker
informed Kyle that the currency would be seized “based
on probable cause that it was proceeds of drug-related
activities.” Id. The currency totaled $10,
October 5, 2017, Kyle filed a Seized Asset Claim form with
the DEA. (Docs. # 12 at 1 and 15-2). This claim, however, was
found to be deficient. (Doc. # 12 at 1). On November 9, 2017,
Paul and Renee Dones, Kyle's parents, filed the same
claim form seeking return of the money through the DEA's
administrative forfeiture proceedings and claiming that the
seized money was a loan they provided Kyle to purchase a car.
(Docs. # 8-1, 12 at 1 and 15-1).
February 2, 2018, the United States filed this in
rem action in federal court pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §
881(a)(6) claiming the asset was proceeds of drug
trafficking. (Docs. # 1 and 1-3). An in rem warrant
was sought and issued on the same day for the proceeds.
(Docs. # 2 and 5). On March 12, Paul Dones (“Claimant
Dones” or “Claimant”) filed a Verified
Claim in federal court claiming that the seized money was not
“proceeds of any drug transactions, ” but instead
was a loan to Kyle from his parents “for the purpose of
purchasing a custom automobile while in California.”
(Doc. # 8-1 at 1). Claimant also filed an Answer to the
United States' Verified Complaint claiming the money was
“obtained legally, and its intended use was for a
lawful purpose” and that the Verified Complaint was
insufficient to show an illegal purpose. (Doc. # 10 at 1).
2, 2018 the United States filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
arguing Claimant does not have standing to claim the money he
allegedly loaned to Kyle. (Doc. # 12). Claimant filed a
Response on May 16, 2018 asserting the Court could find he
had standing, and the United States replied on May 30, 2018.
(Docs. # 14 and 15). The Motion is ripe for the Court's