United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
March 2015, pro se Plaintiff Jeffrey Nix,
self-employed computer repairman, paid thirty dollars to open
an online checking account with Defendant NASA Federal Credit
Union (“NASA FCU”). Two months later, the
Internal Revenue Service apparently made a direct deposit of
over half a million dollars into Nix’s account. A few
days after the deposit, Nix made thousands of dollars in
online payments to creditors. Becoming suspicious, NASA FCU
stopped the withdrawals and froze the account, and eventually
returned the money to the IRS.
sued NASA FCU and four of its employees - Douglas Allman,
Rhonda Bazey, Michelle Cochran, and Jennifer Walge - alleging
that their conduct violated the Expedited Funds Availability
Act (EFAA), 12 U.S.C. § 4001 et seq., the U.S.
Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, Article I § 10 of and
the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal
Constitution, U.S. Const art. I, § 10, amends. IV, V,
XIV, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), G.A.
Res. 217A(III), U.N. GAOR, 3d Ses., U.N. Doc A/810, at 74,
and multiple other statutes. NASA FCU has filed a Motion to
Dismiss all Counts of the Complaint (ECF No. 10). Because
Nix’s allegations state no plausible claims for relief,
NASA FCU’s Motion is GRANTED, and the
Court will sua sponte dismiss all claims against the
March 31, 2015, Nix opened a checking account with NASA FCU
over the internet and deposited $30.00 to activate it. Compl.
¶ 4. No further deposits were made until more than two
months later, on June 19, 2015, when an electronic tax refund
from the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $544, 387.99 was
deposited into the account directly. Id.
days later, on June 29, 2015, Nix scheduled payments to his
creditors through an online bill payment system, totaling
$38, 327.99 payable to, among others, BMW, Visa MasterCard,
and the U.S. Department of Education. Id. ¶ 7;
Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-2. A “Rush Payment Fee”
of $14.95 was also withdrawn. Id.
next day, on June 30, 2015, NASA FCU, suspicious of the size
of the transfer and payments given the history of the
account, stopped those payments. Compl. ¶ 4, 8; Compl.
Exs. A, A-1, E, ECF Nos. 1-2, 1-3, 1-8. That same day, NASA
FCU compliance officer Michelle Cochran called Nix to inform
him about the hold on his account. Compl. Ex. E at 1, ECF No.
1-7. Cochran documented the call in a letter she later sent
to Nix, dated June 30, in which she explained the hold in the
The recent IRS tax refund of $544, 387.99 was much larger
than is typical of our personal household accounts.
Additionally, there were bill payments created to move funds
out of your newly established account. These factors raised
some concerns and our first priority was to protect you and
your account. We needed to ensure these were, in fact, your
transactions and secondly we needed to verify funds with the
IRS to ensure no error had occurred. As I mentioned, if there
was a processing error, the IRS would collect the full amount
from the Credit Union whether the funds were in the account
Id. Nix also spoke on June 30 with Jennifer Walge,
regulatory and compliance supervisor for NASA FCU. As Nix
reported in later correspondence, Walge told him that
“internal policies require large deposits such as the
one deposited to Mr. Nix’s account [to] be placed on
hold to check for errors.” Compl. Ex. D at 2, ECF No.
1-6. Nix told Walge he could not log into his account online.
Id. Walge said she would look into it, and on July
2, 2015, left a message on Nix’s phone that his
inability to log on was related to the hold on the account.
7, 2015, Nix purportedly contacted the IRS to verify the
status of his refund. Compl. ¶ 14. According to Nix, a
customer service agent there told him that his refund was
“true, correct, and approved.” Id.
8, 2015, Nix wrote to Douglas Allman, Chief Executive Officer
of NASA FCU, Rhonda Bazey, Vice President and Chief Financial
Officer of NASA FCU, Walge, Cochran, and the National Credit
Union Administration’s (NCUA’s) Office of
Consumer Protection. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 16; Compl. Ex. D
at 1, ECF No. 1-6. In his letter, Nix claimed that NASA
FCU’s actions violated several statutory and
constitutional provisions, requested certain information
about Cochran, and demanded proof that he had signed an
agreement allowing NASA FCU to place a hold on his account.
Id. He recounted his conversations with Cochran and
Walge, and described his call with the IRS in which the
representative reportedly told him there were no errors.
Id. at 2. Nix signed off, threatening to sue NASA
FCU and its staff in this Court. Id. at 3-4.
15, 2015, Cochran wrote to Nix informing him that, when he
opened the account, he agreed to NASA FCU’s Member
Services Agreement (MSA), which provides that if NASA FCU
believes there is suspicious activity concerning an account,
it may “freeze the funds in the account pending
resolution of the dispute or activity to our
satisfaction.” Compl. Ex. C, ECF No. 1-5. Cochran told
Nix that the IRS had requested additional information about
the deposit, said its review could take an extra fifteen
days, and asked NASA FCU to hold the funds in the meantime.
Id. Cochran pointed out that, under Section D.17 of
the MSA, NASA FCU could withhold account payments if it
receives notice of any “proceeding relating to the
account.” Id. Cochran told Nix the funds would
be held “until they are either reclaimed by the IRS or
until we receive notice from the IRS satisfactory to us that
the funds can be released and that they will not be
21, 2015, Nix wrote again to Allman, Bazey, Cochran, and
Walge, repeating much of what he had written in previous
letters and once more threatening to sue. Compl. Ex. F at
1-3, ECF No. 1-8. In response to Cochran’s July 15
letter, Nix argued that the MSA provisions regarding
suspicious activity did not apply when the U.S. Treasury
deposits funds, and claimed that, as a member of NASA FCU, he
should have been copied on correspondence between NASA FCU
and the IRS regarding his account. Id. at 3.
23, 2015, Cochran wrote to Nix explaining that “[t]he
IRS contacted the Credit Union via e-mail on July 22, 2015
and requested the full amount of the tax refund be returned
[to it]. A check was issued to the Department of the Treasury
in the amount of $544, 387.99 the same day.” Compl. Ex.
G, ECF No. 1-9. Cochran provided Nix a reference number and
said he should contact the IRS if he had questions.
July 22, 2015, the entire balance of Nix’s account, or
$544, 372.10, was withdrawn by check. Compl. Ex. A, ECF No.
27, 2015, Nix wrote again to Allman, Bazey, Walge, Cochran,
and the NCUA, complaining that his funds were
“seized” when NASA FCU issued the check to the
IRS, and demanding written confirmation that certain
procedures were followed. Compl. Ex. H at 2, ECF No. 1-10.
Nix’s requests, NASA FCU did not provide him with
copies of e-mails between NASA FCU and the IRS, nor did it
show him a court order or warrant authorizing seizure of his
account. Compl. ¶¶ 29-31. Further, Nix says, NASA
FCU did not fully disclose its practices when verifying his
tax refund; nor did it provide him with proof of the
“wet-ink” membership agreement he allegedly
signed. Id. ¶¶ 30, 33. There are no legal
judgments against Nix, nor has a levy been issued by the IRS.
Compl. ¶¶ 23-24.
basis of the above facts,  Nix has sued NASA FCU, Allman, Bazey,
Cochran, and Walge, claiming that they have: refused to make
funds available to him in violation of the EFAA, 12 U.S.C.
§§ 4001-4010, and its implementing regulations, 12
C.F.R. §§ 229.10 et seq. (Count I);
disclosed his personal identifying information to a third
party without his consent in violation of the U.S. Privacy
Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a (Count II); interfered with
his “right to contract”, and violated his Fourth,
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights (Counts II, III and
IV); arbitrarily deprived him of property in contravention of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Count V); and
breached their fiduciary duty to him under provisions of the
Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. § 80a-35, and
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA),
29 U.S.C. §§ 1105(b)(c), § 1109(a) (Count V).
Compl. ¶¶ 34-49. He claims that because of the
Defendants’ actions, he was unable to pay his creditors
and has suffered “prejudice and injury” as a
result. Id. ¶ 14. Nix seeks injunctive and
equitable relief against Defendants, and actual,
compensatory, punitive, and treble damages in the total
amount of around $3.33 million. Compl. at
FCU has moved to dismiss all counts, arguing pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) that Nix has
failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
STANDARDS OF LAW
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) prescribes “liberal
pleading standards, ” requiring only that a plaintiff
submit a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that [he or she] is entitled to relief.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007)
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). To survive a motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff
must plead facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007). This standard
requires “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although a court will
accept factual allegations as true, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Id. Indeed, the court need not accept legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations or
“unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D.
Associates Ltd. P’ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th
Cir. 2000). In the end, the complaint must contain factual
allegations sufficient to apprise a defendant of “what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotations and citations omitted). A district court may
sua sponte dismiss a complaint for failure to state
a claim, and where the face of a complaint plainly fails to
state a claim for relief, the district court has “no
discretion but to dismiss it.” Eriline Co. S.A. v.
Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 655 n.10 (4th Cir. 2006)
(internal quotations omitted).
federal courts are obliged to liberally construe a pro
se litigant’s claims in applying the above
analysis, this requirement “does not transform the
court into an advocate.” United States v.
Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). The Fourth Circuit has
noted that “[w]hile pro se complaints may
‘represent the work of an untutored hand requiring
special judicial solicitude, ’ a district court is not
required to recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims
defying the most concerted efforts to unravel
them.’” Weller v. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277
(4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088