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United States v. $40

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 15, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$40, 000.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant. JOHN R. GAGLIARDI, Claimant.

ORDER

LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.

This is a civil forfeiture action. Before the Court is the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. #83.[1] Claimant John R. Gagliardi ("Gagliardi") filed an Opposition (Doc. #91), to which the United States replied (Doc. #93).

I. Facts and Procedural History

On April 4, 2013, the Reno Police Department ("RPD") conducted routine drug interdiction activities on a westbound Amtrak train that was stopped in Reno, Nevada. Doc. #83 at 5. During the stop, Officer Danny James ("James") met with passengers Gagliardi and Alex Alan Yampolsky ("Yampolsky") in their sleeper car. Id. James initiated the meeting after examining the train's passenger list and noticing that Gagliardi and Yampolsky were traveling on a one-way ticket from Naperville, Illinois, to Emeryville, California, and that the ticket had been purchased one day prior to travel. Id. Gagliardi and Yampolsky stated that they were not traveling with a large amount of currency or illegal drugs, and the RPD alleges that they consented to a search of their room and luggage. Id.

During the search, Gagliardi asked James to be careful while looking through the luggage because it contained glass products described as pipes for tobacco use. Id. The government states that the glass products found "are of a type typically used for smoking marijuana." Id. When asked why he was carrying a large number of glass pipes on the train, Gagliardi responded that he was traveling to Alameda, California, to attend a glass show connected to his glass selling business. James then searched Gagliardi's backpack and found a Chase Bank envelope that contained a large number of $100 bills. Id. at 6. While searching the remainder of the room and luggage, James found three other Chase Bank envelopes containing large quantities of $100 bills. The envelopes were located (1) in Gagliardi's backpack, (2) in a laptop computer case found inside the backpack, (3) sewn inside the lining of Gagliardi's jacket found in Gagliardi's backpack, and (4) inside a cell phone box found in a red duffel bag owned by Gagliardi. Id.

After discovery of the four envelopes containing $100 bills, James requested that Detective Madhu Karup ("Karup") join him in Gagliardi and Yampolsky's room to continue the questioning. Id. Karup continued Gagliardi's interview in a separate room while James searched Yampolsky's luggage, allegedly with consent, and found a Chase Bank envelope containing a large quantity of $100 bills. Id. at 7. Yampolsky told James that the currency belonged to Gagliardi and was earned in connection with his glass business.[2] Id. Yampolsky added that he and Gagliardi were traveling to a glass show in Seattle, Washington. Id. Meanwhile, Gagliardi told Karup that he was traveling to California to purchase marijuana[3] and that he possessed approximately $50, 000 in U.S. currency. Id. Gagliardi added that he was carrying such a large amount of currency because he did not trust banks.[4] Id. The government alleges that Gagliardi and Yampolsky each consented to a search of their cell phones. Id. at 8. The search yielded images of marijuana, marijuana being processed, and images of Gagliardi's glass pipes. Id. Gagliardi stated that the photographs were not his, and that the officers likely placed the photographs on his cell phone during their search. Id.

Gagliardi contests the government's allegations that he consented to the searches of his room, luggage, and cell phone. Specifically, Gagliardi states that the individuals who searched his room did not identify themselves as police officers, and "he was intimidated and threatened with a knife" prior to the search. Doc. #91 at 9, 12. Gagliardi adds "that he was not asked how much cash he had, and that he did not have any cash sewn in his jacket, it merely went into the lining of his coat because of a hole in his pocket." Id. at 9. Finally, Gagliardi states that he never told the officers that he intended to buy a pound of marijuana, and that any reference to marijuana was related to his status as a medical marijuana patient outside of Nevada. Id. at 12.

The RPD seized the currency in the five Chase Bank envelopes found in Gagliardi's belongings and transported the currency to the RPD office where a trained drug-detection canine, "Rhoden, " alerted to the odor of illegal drugs on the currency. Id. The RPD then counted the currency and determined that the four envelopes found in Gagliardi's luggage totaled $40, 000, and the one envelope attributable to Yampolsky contained $9800. Id. Thereafter, the currency was transported to a Bank of America branch office, where it was deposited into the City of Reno Evidence Impound Account. Doc. #39, Ex. 1. According to the United States, the currency was then converted by RPD officers to a cashier's check payable to the United States Marshals Service ("USMS") and was deposited into the USMS Seized Asset Deposit Fund. See Doc. #41 at 3.

The Verified Complaint alleges that the defendant property: (1) is proceeds traceable to exchanges of controlled substances in violation of Title II of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., and is subject to forfeiture to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6); (2) was furnished or was intended to be furnished in exchange for controlled substances in violation of Title II of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., and is subject to forfeiture to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6); and (3) was used or was intended to be used to facilitate violations of Title II of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., and is subject to forfeiture to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). Doc. #1, ¶¶25-28. The United States filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment on September 12, 2014. Doc. #83.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In assessing a motion for summary judgment, the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Cnty. of Tuolumne v. Sonora Cmty. Hosp., 236 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2001).

The moving party bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, along with evidence showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On those issues for which it bears the burden of proof, the moving party must make a showing that is "sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Idema v. Dreamworks, Inc., 162 F.Supp.2d 1129, 1141 (C.D. Cal. 2001).

To successfully rebut a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must point to facts supported by the record which demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2000). A "material fact" is a fact "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate. See v. Durang, 711 F.2d 141, 143 (9th Cir. 1983). A dispute regarding a material fact is considered genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient to establish a genuine dispute; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See id. at 252.

The exclusionary rule applies in civil forfeiture cases. One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 702 (1965); United States. v. $493, 850.00 in U.S. Currency, 518 F.3d 1159, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008). The rule "bars the admission of evidence obtained in violation of the U.S. Constitution, as well as fruits of the poisonous tree.'" $493, 850.00 in U.S. Currency, 518 F.3d at 1164 (quoting United States v. Ramirez-Sandoval, 872 F.2d 1392, 1395 (9th Cir. 1989)). "[U]nder the fruits of the poisonous tree' doctrine, evidence obtained subsequent to a violation of the Fourth ...


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