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Forfeiture of money to FBI allowed

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A man whose $12,000 was seized following an arrest after a traffic stop wasn't entitled to get his money back from the FBI because the organization properly followed the rules, and even went above typical forfeiture proceedings in an attempt to inform the man of the seized money.

In James E. Turner v. Attorney General of the United States of America, 4:05-CV-0081-PRC, James Turner pro se filed a motion in 2005 in an attempt to get back the seized funds. The money was confiscated from the driver of a car Turner was a passenger in, and the driver told police the $12,000 was Turner's money. The Newton County Prosecutor filed a motion to transfer the seized property to the FBI under forfeiture proceedings per 21 U.S.C. Section 881. Turner posted bond after the arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to appear. He was later taken into federal custody for several drug trafficking offenses unrelated to his arrest in Newton County.

In Turner's complaint, he alleges no formal notice of the forfeiture was filed or presented to him and that the FBI should have known he was in federal custody at the time the organization mailed notices to him of the administrative forfeiture proceedings.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, dismissed the case, holding Turner was estopped from asserting the claim because the statute of limitations had expired. The 7th Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the case.

Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry granted the FBI's motion to dismiss Turner's complaint Sept. 29, finding the FBI took reasonable steps and met the constitutional standard of due process in Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust, Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950), to provide Turner with notice.

The FBI sent written notice to Turner regarding his opportunity to object to the forfeiture proceedings by certified mail to two different residential addresses but both notices were returned. The FBI also sent a copy of the notice to the attorney who represented Turner in the Newton County misdemeanor case, but the attorney replied that he didn't represent Turner. The FBI published notice of its intention to claim the property in The New York Times for three consecutive weeks.

Those actions were enough to meet the constitutional standards; however, in this case, the FBI went above those actions by searching the National Crime Information Center database, which didn't show Turner was in federal custody at the time of the search. The database only showed his failure to appear in Newton County. There was always the possibility that an arresting agency failed to report or delayed reporting the arrest in the NCIC, which happened in this case.

This case is notable because the FBI was unaware he was in federal custody and took additional efforts to locate Turner in order to provide him notice when it learned its first efforts to notify him failed, wrote the magistrate judge.

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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