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United States v. Nune

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

December 4, 2019

United States, Plaintiff,
v.
Aswanth Nune, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER MOOTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S PRO SE MOTION FOR RETURN OF PERSONAL PROPERTY [#1]

          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Aswanth Nune's (“Defendant”) pro se Motion for Return of Personal Property, filed on November 7, 2019. ECF No. 1. Defendant asks the Court to order the Government to return his personal property to him, which was not subjected to forfeiture, at the time of his removal from the United States, or alternatively to order the Government to send his property to the United States Consulate in Hyderabad, India. Id. at PageID.3. The Government filed a Response on November 8, 2019. ECF No. 2. Defendant did not file a Reply. For the reasons that follow, the Court will MOOT in part and DENY in part Defendant's Motion [#1].

         II. Factual Background

         The instant action stems from a federal law enforcement operation, where undercover agents from Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) posed as owners and employees of the University of Farmington (“University”), which was located in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 19-cr-20025, ECF No. 1, PageID.7.[1] Beginning in 2015, the undercover operation designed to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud. Id. The University did not employ any instructors, create a curriculum, nor conduct any classes or educational activities. Id. at PageID.8. Rather, the University was being used by foreign citizens as a “pay to stay” scheme. Id.

         Defendant is a citizen of India who first traveled to the United States on a temporary student visa known as a F-1 visa. ECF No. 27, PageID.116. On June 7, 2017, Defendant contacted the University to discuss his possible enrollment. Id. at PageID.117. Defendant eventually participated in the “pay to stay” scheme so that he could remain and work in the United States illegally. Id. at PageID.115. Further, Defendant assisted at least eighteen other foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter, and work in the United States. Id. at PageID.119. In return for his recruitment efforts, he received more than $25, 000 in profits. ECF No. 27, PageID.115.

         Defendant pled guilty to conspiring to commit visa fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1546(a)) and harboring aliens for profit (8 U.S.C. § 1324) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. On September 3, 2019, this Court sentenced Defendant to imprisonment for a total term of twelve months and one day. ECF No. 32, PageID.149.

         In his present Motion, Defendant requests the Court's assistance in obtaining his property that was not subjected to forfeiture. 19-mc-51643, ECF No. 1, PageID.3.[2] He lists items that were allegedly taken by the Government when he was arrested at Detroit Metro Airport and items that were left in Midland County Jail. Id. at PageID.2. Defendant is set to be released on December 7, 2019.

         The Government responded to Defendant's Motion on November 8, 2019. See ECF No. 2. In its Response, the Government explains that arrangements had “already been made with [Defendant's] criminal attorney, Mr. Michael Rataj to return [Defendant's] property[.]” Id. at PageID.6. The Government asserts that if the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents did not provide the property to Mr. Rataj, it would ensure Defendant received his property prior to his release and removal from the United States. Id. at PageID.7. With regards to the property listed at Midland County Jail, the Government explains that Defendant must complete the jail's required “Inmate Property Release” form. The Government attached the incomplete form to its Response. See ECF No. 2-1, PageID.10. The Government maintains that it does not oppose Defendant's Motion for return of personal property. ECF No. 2, PageID.7.

         On December 3, 2019, the Government confirmed with Mr. Rataj-and advised the Court-that Defendant received his personal property from DHS.

         III. Law & Analysis

         A pro se litigant's pleadings are construed liberally and judged against a less stringent standard than pleadings drawn by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, a pro se litigant is subject to the same rules of procedure and evidence as litigants who are represented by counsel. See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 834 n. 46 (1975).

Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g):
A person aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure of property or by the deprivation of property may move for the property's return. The motion must be filed in the district where the property was seized. The court must receive evidence on any factual issue necessary to decide the motion. If it grants the motion, the court must return the property to the movant, but may impose ...

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