United States District Court, D. Nevada
DANIEL G. BOGDEN, United States Attorney, GREG ADDINGTON, Assistant United States Attorney, Reno, Nevada.
MOTION TO DISMISS THIRD-PARTY CLAIM (#84) FILED BY CHANPREET KAUR SIDHU
ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.
The United States of America, through its undersigned counsel, moves pursuant to Rule 32.2(c)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to dismiss the claim of Chanpreet Kaur Sidhu, a claim which was filed on August 1, 2014, and captioned as a "Request Application" (#84). The claim by Chanpreet Kaur Sidhu (hereinafter "Mrs. Sidhu") purports to challenge the forfeiture of a vehicle which the Court found to be subject to criminal forfeiture in connection with the criminal offenses committed by defendant Iqbal Singh-Sidhu ("Mr. Sidhu"). The United States' motion to dismiss the claim of Mrs. Sidhu is based on the failure of Mrs. Sidhu to comply with the statutory requirement that third-party claims be signed under penalty of perjury and further on the grounds that the claim fails to state a viable factual basis to challenge the forfeiture of the subject vehicle. Accordingly, Mrs. Sidhu's claim (#84) must be dismissed.
On June 10, 2014, the Court entered a Preliminary Order of Forfeiture (#74) forfeiting various assets to the United States following Mr. Sidhu's conviction by jury verdict of various drug offenses. Specifically, the Preliminary Order of Forfeiture (#74) reflects the Court's determination that the specified assets were sufficiently linked to the criminal offenses Mr. Sidhu was found guilty of committing and the assets were accordingly forfeited to the United States (subject to any third-party claims which might be asserted). The forfeited assets consist of:
a. 2009 Toyota 4Runner, SR5, bearing Nevada license plate 280WEP, vehicle identification number ("VIN") JTEBU14R59K036257, silver in color, seized on February 5, 2013, in the vicinity of 3101 Platte River Drive, Reno, Nevada, erroneously identified in the Second Superseding Indictment as a 2013 Toyota 4Runner;
b. five (5) boxes of drug paraphernalia glass pipes/burners seized on February 5, 2013, from the residence located at 3101 Platte River Drive, Reno, Nevada.
See Preliminary Order of Forfeiture (#74).
Mrs. Sidhu's claim (#84) is limited to the Toyota 4Runner vehicle. Aside from the description of the vehicle and a reference to the entry of the Preliminary Order of Forfeiture, her claim consists of the following statement: "As Iqbal Singh-Sidhu's legal wife, I share his ownership on his property." See Claim (#84), p.2. The claim is signed by Mrs. Sidhu; however, it is not signed under penalty of perjury as required by the operative statute. Moreover, the claim does not state a factual basis for challenging the forfeiture of the Toyota 4Runner vehicle. Accordingly, the claim must be dismissed.
B. THE ANCILALRY PROCEEDING
The purpose of the ancillary proceeding is to determine whether any third party has a valid claim to any of the assets listed in the Preliminary Order of Forfeiture. See United States v. Cone, 627 F.3d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 2010) ("To protect non-party petitioners who may have an interest in the property subject to forfeiture, 21 U.S.C. section 853(n) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2 describe the procedures by which a non-party petitioner may assert its property interests in an ancillary proceeding before the forfeiture becomes final."); United States v. Andrews, 530 F.3d 1232, 1236 (10th Cir. 2008) ("... the third party is given an opportunity during the ancillary proceeding to assert any ownership interest that would require amendment of the [forfeiture] order."); United States v. Lazarenko (Petition of UTICo), 610 F.Supp.2d 1063, 1066 (N.D.Cal. 2009) ("Once a court has forfeited a defendant's interest in assets..., the courts must use an ancillary proceeding to determine if any third party ownership interests exist in the forfeited assets.").
In general, if a third party files a claim contesting the forfeiture of a forfeited asset, the court must conduct a hearing at which the court must determine if the claimant has established a basis for amending or vacating the order of forfeiture in terms of 21 U.S.C. § 853(n). But the court need not conduct a hearing if it grants a motion by the Government to dismiss the claim for lack of standing, for failure to state a claim, or for any other lawful reason. See Rule 32.2(c)(1)(A), Fed.R.Crim.P. See United States v. Oregon, 671 F.3d 484, 489 n.4 (4th Cir. 2012) (noting that the district court must consider motions to dismiss filed by the Government before considering the merits of a third party's claim); United States v. Klemme, 894 F.Supp.2d 1113 (E.D.Wisc. 2012) (granting United States' motion to dismiss deficient claim); United States v. Burge, 829 F.Supp.2d 664 (C.D.Ill. 2011) (same).
1. Mrs. Sidhu's Claim Does Not Comply With 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(3)
Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(2), any person, other than the defendant, asserting a legal interest in property subject to a preliminary order of forfeiture may within the specified time petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of ...