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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

September 13, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN ROBINSON, and KIMBERLY SANTIAGO ROBINSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Findings and Recommendation (Filing No. 142), issued by Magistrate Judge Thomas D. Thalken recommending that the Request for Joinder (Filing No. 86) filed by Defendant Kimberly Santiago Robinson's (“K. Robison”) be granted; and the Motion for Return of Property (Filing No. 83) filed by Defendant Brian Robinson (“B. Robinson”) and K. Robinson (collectively “Defendants”) be denied. Defendants filed Objections (Filing No. 151) to the Findings and Recommendation as allowed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and NECrimR 59.2(a). The Government has not responded to the Objections. For the reasons set forth below, the Findings and Recommendation will be adopted, the Objection will be overruled, and the Motion for Return of Property will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 19, 2015, B. Robinson and K. Robinson, with three other defendants, were charged in a Second Superseding Indictment (Filing No. 70), with conspiracy to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I) and conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (Count III). B. Robinson also was charged with interstate travel with regard to a racketeering enterprise in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952 (Count II). The Second Superseding Indictment identified a variety of funds seized by law enforcement on June 1, 2015, and alleged that the funds were connected to the crimes alleged and subject to forfeiture.

         The Magistrate Judge made detailed Findings of Fact in his Findings and Recommendation (Filing No. 142). Defendants do not object to those findings, and they are adopted in their entirety. The following is a summary of those facts:

         On October 23, 2013, law enforcement, suspecting criminal activity, learned that two packages were being mailed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Fairfield, California. One package was mailed from B. Robinson in Pittsburgh and addressed to K. Robinson at a P.O. Box associated with B. Robinson in Fairfield. Another was mailed from the same Pittsburgh address by “Pacaproperties” to “S&R Consultants” at the same Fairfield P.O. Box.

         Upon the packages' arrival in Fairfield on October 24, 2013, a drug dog alerted to both packages. Law enforcement observed B. Robinson retrieve both packages and leave the post office. Law enforcement then stopped B. Robinson pursuant to a state warrant and seized the packages. Law enforcement found a total of $289, 400 cash. Law enforcement thereafter searched B. Robinson's Fairfield residence, and found a gun, $20, 000 cash, 3.5 grams of marijuana, and items believed to be associated with distribution of marijuana.

         On October 30, 2013, after obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement searched two more packages sent from Pittsburgh and addressed to B. Robinson at the Fairfield P.O. Box, finding and seizing $164, 020 in cash. In addition to that cash and other evidence, law enforcement seized funds from the Defendants' home and several bank accounts in the name of the Defendants and their two minor children. Law enforcement also seized a computer and a boat. On November 13, 2013, law enforcement conducted a search of a parcel of rural property in El Dorado County, California, pursuant to a state search warrant, and found evidence allegedly linking B. Robinson to an interstate marijuana operation.

         On February 6, 2014, the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of California filed a civil forfeiture action (the “California Action”) against the $164, 020 in cash, claiming the currency was involved in federal drug law violations.

         On April 25, 2014, an officer of the Seward County, Nebraska, Sheriff's Office stopped B. Robinson as he was traveling westbound on Interstate 80. The officer searched B. Robinson's vehicle and eventually found and seized $380, 050 in cash from a duffel bag, other duffle bags smelling of marijuana, and two bags containing small amounts of marijuana. Robinson told law enforcement the money was earned from gambling.

         On December 30, 2014, the Eastern District of California entered a Stipulation and Order for Dismissal with Prejudice of the civil forfeiture action against the $164, 020 in cash, and ordered the government to return the $164, 020 to B. Robinson via his attorney.

         On January 8, 2015, the DEA sent a letter to Robinson agreeing to return an additional $315, 523 in seized cash and $25, 040.63 from seized bank accounts. On February 3, 2015, $504, 831.37 was deposited by the government into B. Robinson's lawyer's client trust account. On February 24, 2015, a check for $379, 841.37 was distributed from B. Robinson's lawyer's client trust account to B. Robinson, and in March 2015, B. Robinson deposited the $379, 841.37 into one Wells Fargo Bank account. Later, B. Robinson moved the same funds into various bank and investment accounts and withdrew $100, 000 in cash.

         On June 1, 2015, law enforcement seized $220, 330.67 from various bank accounts belonging to B. Robinson and $80, 000 cash from B. Robinson's home. B. Robinson asserts that the money seized on June 1, 2015, came from the $379, 841.37 that had been returned to B. Robinson through his counsel after the stipulation was entered in the California Action. (See Filing No. 83-4 at 2.)

         The Magistrate Judge concluded that because the large sums of cash indicated strong evidence of a connection to drug activity, a return of property was not appropriate. The Magistrate Judge also rejected the Defendants' claim that the property should be returned under the doctrine of res judicata, reasoning that nothing indicated that the funds associated with the case in the Eastern District of California were the same funds at issue in this case. The Magistrate Judge also recommended that K. Robinson's Motion for Joinder to B. Robinson's Motion for Return of Property be granted because she demonstrated an interest in B. Robinson's property.[1]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the findings and recommendation to which the Defendants have objected. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendation. The Court may ...


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