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In re Seizure of $82,000 More or Less

United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri
119 F.Supp.2d 1013 (2000)


Facts

On February 15, 1996, Corporal Jack McMullin pulled over Roberto-Lopez and Guadalupe Cortez-Amezcua for speeding and following too closely. McMullin found fresh silicone along the undercarriage of their car and became suspicious. McMullin requested that Lopez-Velez and Cortez-Amezcua take the car to the state highway patrol garage for inspection. At the garage, Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) agent, Carl Hicks, uncovered $24,000 in cash hidden in the car’s battery case. Lopez-Velez revealed that the money was proceeds from the sale of drugs, and that he had been hired to transport the money. Hicks released Lopez-Velez and Cortez-Amezcua but seized the money and the car. Afterwards, the DEA initiated a forfeiture action against the money and the car. Lopez-Velez initially contested the forfeiture, but failed to pursue the challenge. Consequently, on June 12, 1998, the DEA declared the money and the car abandoned. The DEA subsequently arranged to have the car sold. On February 1, 1999, Helen Chappell (plaintiff) purchased the car. Noticing a fuel problem, Chappell arranged for Waldo Imports to repair the car. As he repaired the car, the mechanic found bundles of cash floating in the car’s fuel tank, totaling $82,000. The mechanic reported his discovery to the DEA and the DEA seized the money from the mechanic. Chappell and her husband filed for the return of the money while the Government (defendant) filed for forfeiture of the money as drug proceeds. The Chappells move for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Laughrey, J.)

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