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United States v. One Million One Hundred Thirty One Thousand Seven Hundred Ninety Two Dollars

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY-TWO DOLLARS $1, 131, 792.00 IN U.S. CURRENCY, et al., Defendants in rem, and LONNIE STRIBLING, Claimant.

          Stephen J. Murphy, III District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The United States of America brings this civil-forfeiture action pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881, 18 U.S.C. § 981, and 18 U.S.C. § 1956. (Docket no. 5.) Claimant Lonnie Stribling claims an ownership interest in the subject property. (Docket no. 11.) Before the Court is the Government's motion to strike Stribling's claim for lack of standing (docket no. 25), which was referred to the undersigned to conduct an evidentiary hearing and issue a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 33.) Having reviewed the pleadings and conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 18, 2019, the undersigned issues this Report and Recommendation.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the Government's motion to strike Stribling's claim (docket no. 25) be DENIED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         On July 10, 2017, DEA agents executed a search warrant at Lonnie Stribling's residence in Farmington Hills, Michigan. (Docket no. 5, pp. 9-10.) As agents approached the home, Gyasi Stribling-Lonnie Stribling's minor son-exited the house with a suitcase. (Id. at 10-11; docket no. 27-2, p. 2.) The agents confronted Gyasi and discovered that the suitcase contained $850, 120 in U.S. currency. (Id.)

         The Government seeks forfeiture of that money and other property uncovered during the search pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881, 18 U.S.C. § 981, and 18 U.S.C. § 1956. (Docket no. 5.) On April 24, 2018, Stribling filed a claim of interest the property. (Docket no. 11.)

         Pursuant to Rule G(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Civil Forfeiture Actions (the “Supplemental Rules”), the Government served interrogatories on Stribling regarding the basis for his claim of ownership. (Docket no. 15-2.) Asked to explain “how [he] acquired an interest in the $850, 120 contained in a suitcase seized from Gyasi Stribling, ” Stribling answered that the money was “gifted to [him]” by his mother. (Docket no. 27-4, pp. 7-8.) Regarding “the purpose for which Gyasi Stribling possessed the Defendant Currency on July 10, 2017, ” Stribling stated that there was “[n]o specific reason.” (Id.)

         The Government contended that Stribling's interrogatory responses were inadequate and moved for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Stribling has standing to contest the forfeiture of the $850, 120 seized from the suitcase. (Docket no. 16.) The Government also filed a motion to strike Stribling's claim for lack of standing with respect to the $850, 120. (Docket no. 25.)

         The Court granted the Government's motion for an evidentiary hearing and referred the motion to strike to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 33.) During the hearing on March 18, 2019, Stribling testified that he is the owner of the $850, 120 seized from his son on July 10, 2017.

         B. Standard of Review

         The Government moves to strike Lonnie Stribling's claim pursuant to Supplemental Rule G(8)(c). (Docket no. 25.) Under that rule, Stribling bears the “burden of establishing standing by a preponderance of ...


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