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United States v. $100

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 30, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$100, 000 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant, DANIEL R. ORMOND, Claimant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this case the United States seeks in rem forfeiture of $100, 000 in currency. The United States alleges that the currency is subject to forfeiture because it was connected to illegal drug activity. Daniel Ormond has filed a claim to the currency. Before me are cross-motions for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. The Seizure of the Defendant Currency

         On May 26, 2016, members of the Logan Airport Task Force (“LATF”) seized the res, $100, 000 in United States currency, from the claimant, Daniel Ormond. Mr. Ormond was ticketed to travel to Oakland, California on Southwest Airlines, with a connecting flight in Baltimore, Maryland.

         On the morning of May 26, 2016, after receiving a request from Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) agents for assistance, Massachusetts State Police (“MSP”) Sergeant John Tasker was dispatched to the Southwest Airlines checkpoint in Terminal A at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. TSA agents reported that a passenger, later identified as Mr. Ormond, had attempted to pass through the TSA security checkpoint with what appeared to be a large amount of currency in his carry-on duffle bag. TSA agents described the Defendant Currency as evenly stacked bundles that were strapped to flat pieces of cardboard - similar to the shape and size of a paperback book. The bundles were covered in carbon-paper and gift wrapped. Two such “gift wrapped” packages were in Mr. Ormond's carry-on bag.

         Mr. Ormond's airline ticket on Southwest Airlines on May 26, 2016 was listed as “Non-Revenue Ticket.” Non-revenue designations are for those travelers traveling on a Southwest Airlines Guest Pass. A Guest Pass is valid for “Space Available (standby) travel” only. A person flying in this standby status is subject to removal from a flight at any point in order to accommodate revenue Customers or Pass Travelers with a higher priority. Such a person may only obtain a security document to proceed through the security checkpoint and wait at the gate for seat availability. This security document may only be obtained up to 24 hours in advance of travel and the traveler may only add his name to the standby list two hours prior to departure.

         MSP Trooper Baldwin Leon and Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Special Agent Eugene DiFiore assisted Sgt. Tasker with the investigation of the Defendant Currency. Mr. Ormond spoke to the investigators present regarding his travel plans and the origin of the Defendant Currency found in his carry-on luggage. When asked about the Defendant Currency in his luggage, Mr. Ormond initially denied possessing a large amount of currency. Mr. Ormond stated that he was traveling to California to attend the graduation of his cousin, Brian Griswald, from Palo Alto High School and that he planned to stay with his cousin in San Jose, California during his visit. Mr. Ormond's mother, in a deposition, however, stated that Mr. Ormond did not have a cousin named “Brian Griswald, ” nor did he have any cousins who graduated from Palo Alto High School with that last name.[1]

         Mr. Ormond further stated that he packed his own bag and that it contained two gift-wrapped books given to him by his mother the night before as a graduation present for his cousin. When asked about the Defendant Currency and the manner in which it was packaged, Mr. Ormond stated that the wrapped items were books and that he had no idea that they contained currency. In her deposition, however, Mr. Ormond's mother testified that she did not give him gift-wrapped books to give to any relatives. Rather, she testified that she was not aware of the existence of the Defendant Currency and that she did not give Mr. Ormond the Defendant Currency. In fact, she testified that she did not have the financial means to give Mr. Ormond $100, 000 in May 2016.

         While Mr. Ormond was talking with Sgt. Tasker, Trooper Leon, and SA DiFiore, he received and answered a phone call from Billy Antenor. Mr. Ormond told Sgt. Tasker, Trooper Leon, and SA DiFiore that he stayed with Mr. Antenor the previous night and that Mr. Antenor had driven him to the airport prior to his flight. He told them that Mr. Antenor was calling to inquire if Mr. Ormond had gotten on the plane without any issues.

         At this point, Trooper Leon told Mr. Ormond that he did not believe him and that a further investigation was needed regarding the origin of the Defendant Currency. Mr. Ormond subsequently accompanied the officials to the Massachusetts State Police Troop F Barracks. Thereafter, MSP Detective Lieutenant Thomas Coffey contacted MSP Sgt. Patrick Silva and requested the assistance of a K-9 and handler trained in the detection of narcotics odors. Sgt. Silva notified Det. Lt. Coffey that he would be responding with K-9 Charbo.

         MSP Trooper Christopher Fraser was also requested to assist with the investigation of the origin of the Defendant Currency. Mr. Ormond told Trooper Fraser that he did not see his mother wrap the two packages she gave him. However, when Trooper Fraser asked if there would be any reason Mr. Ormond's fingerprints could be found on the inside of the wrapping paper with which the Defendant Currency was wrapped, Mr. Ormond responded that he helped his mother wrap one of the packages. During these later discussions, Mr. Ormond stated that he knew the packages contained currency. Mr. Ormond then told Trooper Fraser that his mother did not give him the currency nor did she wrap the packages that contained the currency. Mr. Ormond told Trooper Fraser that an unnamed family member gave him the currency to give to another unnamed family member. Mr. Ormond then stated, “That's all I can say.”

         Trooper Fraser further inquired about Mr. Ormond's phone call with Mr. Antenor, whether Mr. Antenor had any relationship to the Defendant Currency and why Mr. Antenor inquired about whether Mr. Ormond boarded the plane without any issues. Mr. Ormond told him that Mr. Antenor gave him a ride to the airport that morning. When Trooper Fraser asked for Mr. Antenor's address, Mr. Ormond was not able to provide the address. He was unsure whether Mr. Antenor lived in Malden or Medford, Massachusetts. Mr. Ormond then said that his girlfriend, not Mr. Antenor, had brought him to the airport.

         Meanwhile, SA DiFiore researched Mr. Ormond's criminal history and provided the results to Trooper Fraser. Trooper Fraser reviewed the report and confirmed that Mr. Ormond had previously been arrested for a drug offense in Nebraska.

         At some later point, Mr. Ormond told Trooper Fraser that he no longer wanted to speak with him and the other investigators and said “I don't understand the legality of it, ” and then asked: “If I'm not getting my money back, could I have a receipt?” Trooper Fraser told Mr. Ormond that the Defendant Currency was going to be seized pending further investigation and an examination by a MSP K-9 certified to detect narcotics odor, but that he was free to leave. Trooper Leon told Mr. Ormond that he would receive a receipt after the completion of the K-9 examination and after the Defendant Currency was counted.

         In preparation for the K-9 examination, LATF investigators hid the Defendant Currency in the inside of a file cabinet drawer, out of plain view, in an office inside the Barracks. They did not disclose the location to Sgt. Silva. Sgt. Silva arrived at the Barracks at approximately 11:30 a.m. and was directed to the second floor. Sgt. Silva and K-9 Charbo went inside the office space where the Defendant Currency was hidden. After K-9 Charbo was released, he immediately turned to the right and examined the lower-right hand drawer of a desk within the office. Sgt. Silva saw K-9 Charbo display deep inhalations, and then K-9 Charbo “downed” towards the drawer. Sgt. Silva notified Det. Lt. Coffey and SA DiFiore, and they told Sgt. Silva that the Defendant Currency was hidden in the drawer identified by K-9 Charbo.

         2. Mr. Ormond's Travels between Boston and California

         Mr. Ormond traveled between Boston and California twice in the month before the seizure of the Defendant Currency.

         On April 21, 2016, Mr. Ormond flew from Los Angeles, California to Sacramento, California. The next day he flew from Sacramento to Denver, Colorado, and then from Denver to Boston. Mr. Ormond booked both flights on the date of departure and brought no checked luggage with him.

         On May 7, 2016, Mr. Ormond traveled from Boston to Los Angeles, with a layover in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

         3. Mr. Ormond's Relationship with Mr. Antenor

         Mr. Ormond told LATF officers that Mr. Antenor was a friend he met while attending Bunker Hill Community College. Mr. Antenor enrolled at Bunker Hill on April 30, 2010. Mr. Ormond enrolled at Bunker Hill on December 21, 2012. The two met when Mr. Antenor walked into one of Mr. Ormond's classes to discuss “app building, ” and Mr. Ormond offered to help Mr. Antenor. Thereafter, they began working on their nightclub “app.”

         Mr. Antenor and Mr. Ormond traveled to California in early 2016 to visit Mr. Ormond's uncle. In his deposition, however, Mr. Antenor could not recall the name of Mr. Ormond's uncle, or the location where they stayed. Mr. Antenor said that they went on this trip to obtain an investor for their app. They did not, however, meet with any investors during their trip to California. In fact, they had not set up any meetings with investors in advance of the California trip. After this trip, Mr. Antenor lost contact with Mr. Ormond. Nonetheless, the two were on the same flight together leaving Logan Airport on May 26, 2016.

         4. Mr. Antenor's Trips between Boston and California

         From April 28, 2016 to June 3, 2016, Mr. Antenor made several trips between Boston and California.

         On April 28, 2016, he traveled from Boston to Los Angeles, with a layover in Baltimore. The April 28, 2016 flight was booked on the day of departure and Mr. Antenor brought no checked luggage on the trip.

         On May 1, 2016, Mr. Antenor traveled to Boston from Los Angeles, with a layover in Milwaukee. On the same day, he also reserved a flight from Los Angeles to Boston, this reservation included a layover in Denver. Again, the flights were booked on the day of departure and Mr. Antenor brought no checked luggage on the trip he took.

         On May 7, 2016, the same day that Mr. Ormond traveled from Boston to Los Angeles with a layover in Milwaukee, Mr. Antenor traveled from Boston to Los Angeles, with a layover in St. Louis, Missouri. On that day, Mr. Antenor also reserved a flight from Boston to Baltimore. The flight Mr. Antenor took on May 7, 2016 was booked on the day of departure and Mr. Antenor brought no checked luggage on the trip.

         On May 15, 2016, Mr. Antenor traveled from Los Angeles to Boston, with a layover in Indianapolis. In a pattern similar to his previous booking, Mr. Antenor again reserved an additional flight from Los Angeles to Boston, with a layover in Denver. The flights again were booked the day of ...


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