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United States v. $23

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 25, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$23, 400 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, in rem Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MALCOLM F. MARSH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, the United States of America, brings this civil forfeiture proceeding seeking the forfeiture of the Defendant in rem $23, 400 in U.S. Currency. On October 30, 2014, Claimant Cesar Cruz-Reyes filed a Claim and Answer asserting that he is the owner of the currency. Claim (ECF No. 5); Answer (ECF No. 6). Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21). Claimant did not file an opposition to the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Plaintiffs Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The circumstances of the seizure of the Defendant in rem $23, 400 in U.S. Currency is set forth in the Declaration of Jeremy Stinson, a Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). See Compl. (ECF No. 1), Ex, A. In his Declaration, Stinson states that after intercepting telephone communications between Juan Orozco-Lopez and Ariel Salazar-Galindo suggesting drug activity, he obtained a warrant to search Salazar-Galindo's residence. Id., Ex. A at 4-18. On March 19, 2014, members of the Clackamas County Inter-Agency Task Force and the Portland DEA executed the search warrant and seized, among other things, approximately one-half pound of methamphetamine and $23, 400 in U.S. Currency. Id. at 18-20.

         According to Stinson, Salazar-Galindo admitted to selling heroin and methamphetamine. Id. at 19-20. However, both Salazar-Galindo and his father Rosalino Salazar-Maceda (who also was present in the residence at the time of the search) stated that the $23, 400 found in the residence was a loan from family friend Cesar Cruz-Reyes. Id. at 21. Stinson summarized the evidence and the statements concerning the alleged loan as follows:

45.....Ariel told me the money came from a $20, 000 loan his father had received from a family friend named Cesar. Ariel told me the money was intended to start a business, 46. After I was finished speaking with Ariel I asked Rosalino SALAZAR-MACEDA (Ariel's father) if he would be willing to speak with me. Rosalino agreed .... I asked Rosalino about the money we found in Ariel's room. Rosalino told me the money came from a personal loan a friend had given him the day before.
47. I asked Rosalino if he had spent any of the loan his friend had given him[.] Rosalino told me he had spent some of the money already to re-pay a family member money owed on another loan, to make a payment on his black 2013 Nissan Altima, and to re-pay a loan company who had previously loaned him money. Rosalino estimated he had spent $10, 000 of the $20, 000 his friend had loaned him.
48. Rosalino told me his son was holding onto the remaining $10, 000 of the personal loan he had received from his friend. Rosalino told me the loan he had received from his friend was all in $100 denominations. I viewed the currency seized from Ariel's bedroom, and noted much of it was in $20 denominations an amount common in drug transactions.
53. On September 5, 2014, at about 1:3O p.m., I called CRUZ-REYES by phone .... Mr, CRUZ-REYES told me he had loaned the money to the family for a cleaning business. I asked Mr. CRUZ-REYES how much he loaned the SALAZAR family and he replied "$20, 000", then corrected himself and slowly stated "$23, 400" as if he was reading the number. Mr. CRUZ-REYES told me he gave the money to the family in cash which he withdrew from his personal Key Bank money market account....
56. Mr. CRUZ-REYES told me the SALAZAR family was supposed to pay him back the money he loaned them starting six months after he gave them the loan and in the amount of $500 a month...,
59.....CRUZ-REYES told me the loan was an agreement between himself and Ariel's father, though Ariel helped mediate the deal because CRUZ-REYES does not speak Spanish and Ariel's father, Rosalino Galindo-Salazar, does not speak English,

Id. at 21-25.

         In his answers to Plaintiffs First Request for Special Interrogatories, Claimant similarly stated that the $23, 400 was a "business loan for a HVAC and cleaning business, " Mot. for Summ, J. (ECF No. 21), Att. 2 at 2. Claimant explained that the loan was interest free and made ...


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