United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
DENNIS SAYLOR, IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an in rem civil forfeiture action. The United States
alleges that the defendant property-“$50, 900 in United
States currency of IBC Bank Cashier's Check #16226396 in
the amount of $250, 910 in United States currency, seized on
May 27, 2015, from Insured Aircraft Title Service, Inc.,
located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma”-was intended to be
used for the purchase of a Gulfstream II aircraft meant for
use in narcotics trafficking. The government seeks forfeiture
of the property pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6) and 18
U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(A).
before the Court are motions to dismiss the action filed by
claimants Benjamin Polat and Luis Saldana Grillo. Claimants
contend that the complaint must be dismissed because (1)
venue is improper; (2) the government did not provide timely
notice of the administrative forfeiture process; and (3) the
complaint fails to establish probable cause for the
forfeiture of the defendant currency. For the reasons stated
below, the action will be transferred to the United States
District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
facts giving rise to this action are described in the
affidavit of Drug Enforcement Agent John Grella, attached to
the complaint as Exhibit A. The bulk of Grella's
affidavit describes an undercover investigation carried out
by the DEA in Massachusetts.
narcotics traffickers generate large amounts of cash from
their illegal activities in the United States that must be
“laundered” before it can be repatriated back to
the traffickers' home countries. Grella Aff. ¶¶
12-13. Narcotics traffickers typically use the services of a
third-party money broker, who in turn uses contacts in the
United States to receive drug proceeds in cash and deposit
them into the United States banking system. Id.
April 8, 2015, an undercover DEA agent received a message
from a Colombia-based money broker requesting that the agent
“pick up” approximately $300, 000 in cash in
Boston. Id. ¶ 16. The broker eventually
provided the agent with the cell phone number of the money
courier and a photograph of the serial number of a one-dollar
bill so that the courier and agent would be able to verify
the other's identity. Id. On April 10, 2015, the
agent met with the courier at a grocery store in Boston and
obtained a brown bag containing $398, 820 in United States
currency. Id. ¶¶ 17-26.
agent deposited the currency into a DEA undercover account in
Massachusetts. On April 29, 2015, in accordance with the
broker's instructions, the agent sent a wire transfer in
the amount of $50, 045 to account number 717213717 at the
International Bank of Commerce. Id. ¶ 27.
Neither the complaint nor the affidavit identify the location
of International Bank of Commerce. The broker identified the
account holder as “Insured Aircraft Title
Service” and provided the agent with an aircraft tail
number, N689JE. A few days later, the broker requested
that the agent retrieve the wire transfer because the money
was needed in another account. The agent did so. On May 12,
2015, the broker instructed the agent to wire the $50, 045 to
an account at Bank of America in the name of “American
Initiative Corporation.” Id. ¶ 28. That
wire was sent on May 13, 2015. Id. ¶ 29. The
next day, the subject property account at International Bank
of Commerce received a transfer from the American Initiative
Corporation, Homestead, Florida, in the amount of $50, 045.
According to the affidavit, that transaction was
“associated with” the same aircraft tail number
of N689JE. Id. ¶ 30.
Aircraft Title Service is based in Oklahoma City.
Id. ¶ 31. Insured Aircraft Title Service
received three other wire transfers for the purchase of
N68JE, all of which were deposited into the same IBC account.
Id. ¶ 32. Those three transactions were (1) $8,
900 from Luis G. Saldana Grillo in Caracas, Venezuela, sent
via Mercantil Commercebank in Coral Gables, Florida; (2) $42,
000 from PeeBee Corporation in Aventura, Florida, sent via
Bank of America; and (3) $149, 965 from Krause Ventures LTD
in the British Virgin Islands, sent via Credicorp Bank in
Panama City, Panama. The first two transactions (from Saldana
Grillo and PeeBee) make up the $50, 900 that is the subject
property in this action.
description of the subject property indicates that it is a
portion of an IBC cashier's check in the amount of $250,
910; that it was seized on May 27, 2015; and that it is
located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There is no additional
information in the complaint or the Grella affidavit as to
the circumstances of the seizure or the physical location of
present in rem civil forfeiture action was filed on
December 11, 2015. The government alleges that the defendant
property was used or intended to be used to commit, or to
facilitate the commission of, a violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841 and/or 846, and seeks forfeiture pursuant to
21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). On December 28, 2015, this Court
issued a warrant and monition.
Polat filed a notice of verified claim on March 11, 2016, and
a motion to dismiss the complaint on April 5, 2016. Claimant
Saldana Grillo filed a notice of verified claim and a motion
to dismiss on April 19, 2016. Claimants contend that the
complaint must be dismissed because (1) venue is improper;
(2) the government did not provide timely notice of the
administrative forfeiture ...