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United States v. $61,200.00 in U.S. Currency, More or Less

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant was pulled over by a police officer. The officer found marijuana, various amount of drug paraphernalia, and $61, 200 in small denominations. The government files an action in rem against the cash found and moves for a finding of summary judgment.

     

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The government bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendants property is subject to forfeiture because it is the proceeds of illegal activity.

     

    Facts.

    Jerod Clyde, an Iowa State Patrol Officer, stopped Brian Lee Szymczak, a sixty-one year old male driving west on Interstate 80. Clyde questioned Szymczak about the purpose of his travel, and Szymczak told Clyde he was traveling back to California after visiting friends and relatives in Michigan. Clyde smelled marijuana emanating from the vehicle, but Szymczak denied having any marijuana. Later, Szymczak admitted that he ad several joints, but he had a valid California prescription for marijuana. Clyde noted that the prescription expired a month ago. Thereafter, Clyde asked Szymczak whether he had large amount of cash with him, and Szymczak denied having it. Nevertheless, Szymczak admitted that he had $60,000 in the vehicle because he planned on installing a safe in his barn in Michigan and was bringing his lifesavings to California. After consenting to the search of the vehicle, Clyde founds a total of $61, 200 in three separate areas of the vehicle in heat-or-vacuum sealed bags in the following denominations: 95-$100 bills, 144-$50 bills; 2133-$20 bills; 164-$10 bills; and 40-$5 bills. Subsequently, the officer found marijuana in the vehicle, along with rolling papers, medicine bottles that contained hashish, and various assortments of drug paraphernalia. Szymczak was found guilty to possession of a controlled substance.  The government filed a complaint in rem against the cash, under 21 U.S.C. § 881, and moved for summary judgment.

     

    Issue.

    Whether there is a genuine issue of material fact relating to the source of Defendant’s currency.

     

    Held.

    Yes, there is a genuine issue of material fact relating to the source of Defendant’s currency.

     

    Discussion.

    The government has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant’s property is subject to forfeiture. The government contends that the amount of currency and the manner of concealment support a finding that the money is connected to drug activity. Here, the money was found in vacuum-sealed bags and in small denominations, which may be indicative of criminal activity, such as drug trafficking. The court finds no genuine issue of material fact regarding the Defendant’s money, the denominations of money, and the manner of concealment, being an indication that Defendant is involved in drug trafficking. However, the court finds a genuine issue of material fact regarding (1) whether Defendant’s travel was for a personal or drug related purpose and (2) whether Defendant’s currency is the product of his life savings or the proceeds of drug activity.



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