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United States v. $22

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 22, 2017

$22, 600.00 U.S. Currency, in rem, Defendant.


          Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, the United States of America, brings this civil forfeiture proceeding pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881;28U.S.C. §§ 1345, 1355, 1356, and 1395; and 19U.S.C. § 1610. Currently before the Court is Claimant Andrew Harrison's Motion to Suppress (ECF No. 10). For the reasons set forth below, this Court denies the Motion.


         On October 14, 2015, the government filed its Complaint, alleging that the Defendant in rem, $22, 600.00 in U.S. Currency, "represents proceeds traceable to an exchange for controlled substances or was used or intended to be used to facilitate such a transaction in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 801, et seq." Compl. at 2. Attached to the Complaint is a Declaration by United States Postal Inspector Brendan Soennecken describing the circumstances surrounding the seizure of the currency:

11. On April 24, 2015, 1 went to the Medford Mail Processing Center... as part of my regular investigatoiy duties. While at the Mail Processing Center, I reviewed express mail parcels that were inbound to Southern Oregon from Portland. While reviewing parcels, I noted U.S. Mail priority express parcel, number E1836835701US. The parcel was addressed to "Andrew Harrison Exposure SMI ... with a return address of "Barry Abrams 1078 Kingsley Road, Rydal, PA 19046" I noted the parcel as having been mailed on April 23, 2015, from zip code 19006 which corresponds with Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. The parcel was scheduled for delivery on April 25, 2015The waiver of signature upon delivery was clearly marked and signed by the mailer of the parcel. Additionally, the parcel had been written on with large letters which read "Hold for Pick-up."
12. Medford Police Officer Rob Havice, a Certified Controlled Substance Dog Handler, and his certified controlled substance detective dog Narc were at the Mail Processing Center with me on April 24, 2015. Officer Havice provided me with a copy of a document outlining his qualifications and Narc's qualifications U.S. priority express parcel number E1836835701US was placed in a deployment line with five other similar control parcels for examination by Narc.... Officer Havice told me Narc alerted on the parcel... in the manner that he has been trained to alert when he detects the odor of a controlled substance ....
13. On April 24, 2015, 1 reviewed law-enforcement database information related to the sender and recipient of U.S, priority express parcel number E1836835701US. I learned both Andrew Harrison and Barry Abrams had given their correct addresses on the package. I also called a phone number I located for Andrew Harrison's business, Exposure SMI .... When I called the number it went to voicemail . . . which gave as its greeting the option to leave a message for either "Exposure SMI" or "420 Farms, " 420 being a term used within the marijuana subculture.
14. On April 25, 2015, Medford Police Officer Rob Havice and I spoke with Andrew Harrison at his residence .... As I approached the locked gate of Mr. Harrison's property, I viewed the neighboring farm with Officer Havice. We could see extremely large ( feet) marijuana plants growing in one of two large green houses on the neighbor's property....
15. At 9:32 a.m. on April 25, 2015, 1 called the number for Mr. Harrison given on the parcel.... Mr. Harrison answered and I told him I needed to speak to him about his parcel. He came to the gate for his driveway and spoke with Officer Havice and me. I introduced myself as a law enforcement officer and asked Mr. Harrison if he was expecting a parcel. He told me he was expecting a phone charger in the mail. I told Mr. Harrison I had a parcel for him and SMI Exposure, but I had some concerns about his parcel. I asked if his property was also called 420 Farms. He told me it was, but he also has a coconut water business which is part of Exposure SMI.
16.1 told Mr. Harrison the parcel was from Pennsylvania and I believed it might be related to his business 420 Farms. He told me it had nothing to do with drugs and was related to his business SMI Exposure. I asked him what was in it and he told me it was probably about $20, 000.00 and was probably for his import business. I asked Mr, Harrison what the money was for and he explained it was investment money and that he has a coconut water deal and needs money to pay for a container of coconut water/milk and he has to pay half down in order to buy the container of coconut water/milk.
17.1 asked Mr. Harrison for consent to open the parcel. Andrew Harrison gave me consent to open the parcel and I did. Inside I found part of a cardboard box wrapped around a shoe box. Inside the shoe box were some receipts, a plastic bag, and a paper bag which had in it four individually-marked stacks of U.S. currency and a letter-size marked envelope of U.S. currency. The five groupings were marked as $5, 000, $5, 000, $5, 000, $5, 600 and $2000, totaling $22, 600.

Id., Ex, A (Decl, of Brendan Soennecken) at 4-7. In his subsequent deposition, Soennecken testified that the express package had a guaranteed delivery time of 3:00 p.m. on April 25, 2015, but was marked "Hold for Pickup" which was unusual. Decl. of Amy E. Potter (ECF No. 13), Ex. B at 37-38, 49-51; see also Ex. A (Dep. of Officer Robert Havice) at 43, 58. Soennecken testified that he placed the package in a deployment line for the reasons set forth in his answer to Claimant's Interrogatory number 2, which provides as follows:

I noted the parcel was Priority Express Mail sent using an expedited service sealed from inspection. I noted the parcel was coming from Pennsylvania to Oregon, I noted the parcel was large, heavy and expensive to mail for Priority Express. I noted the signature requirement was waived which indicates the recipient couldn't or wouldn't personally be guaranteed to receive the parcel. I noted a twice handwritten message on the parcel requesting the parcel held for pick-up, which is unusual, and which I do not recall ever seeing before.

         Claimant's Memo, in Supp. at 14-15; see also Decl, of Soennecken at ΒΆΒΆ 7, 10 (explaining that Priority Express Mail is used primarily for business-related mailings, waiving the recipient signature allows mail carriers to leave parcel without interaction with the recipient of illegal, controlled substances, and drug ...

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