United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
is Leonard Benjamin's ("Benjamin") Complaint
(styled a "Motion for the Retrieval of Unforfeited
Personal Property Pursuant to Title 18 U.S.C. Section
983") requesting to set aside an administrative
forfeiture. (ECF 1). The Government filed a Response (ECF 6)
to which Benjamin filed a Reply. (ECF 10).
matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition. This Court
finds a hearing is unnecessary to resolve the issues.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to
follow, Benjamin's Motion (ECF 1) will be DENIED AND
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
seeks to set aside the administrative forfeiture of jewelry
seized from his house incident to his arrest in Bowie,
Maryland on February 7, 2014, by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
("DEA"). On July 11, 2014, Benjamin pleaded guilty
to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possession with Intent to
Distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of 21
U.S.C. S846. United States v. Benjamin, Criminal
Action No. RDB-14-00048 (D. Md. 2014). On October 23, 2014,
this Court sentenced Benjamin to a term of 228 months
claims the seized jewelry was a gift given to him by family
and is unconnected to his criminal activity. (ECF 1, 10).
Further, Benjamin argues forfeiting the jewelry was not a
part of his plea agreement. He notes that the plea agreement
stipulated he forfeited $39, 387.00 in U.S. currency seized
on February 7, 2014, but was silent about the seized jewelry.
(ECF 1 at 3). He also explains that he had instructed his
defense counsel to "do everything in his power" to
ensure he retained the jewelry. (ECF 10 at 2).
and undisputed records submitted by government counsel show
that on April 1, 2014, the DEA sent notice of the seizure and
administrative forfeiture proceedings by certified mail,
return receipt requested, to Benjamin addressed to 154 Mount
Oak Road, Bowie, Maryland. (ECF 6-1 Declaration of Vicki L.
Rashid, ("Rashid Decl.") at ¶¶ 4(b)-(g)).
On April 2, 2014, an individual, "M. Franklin, "
signed the signature block to signify acceptance of delivery
of the notice. (Resp. Exhibits 1, 2).
on April 1, 2014, the DEA sent written notice of the seizure
by certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to
Benjamin, Prisoner ID No. 422470, Chesapeake Detention
Facility, 401 East Madison Street, Baltimore, M.D. 21202. On
April 3, 3014, an individual, "E Cheatman" signed
the signature block to accept delivery of the notice. (Resp.
Exhibits 3, 4).
notices sent to Benjamin informed him of the administrative
proceedings against the seized property and his corresponding
rights. Specifically, the notice identified the seized
jewelry and explained his options, including: filing a
petition for remission of forfeiture within 30 days from
receipt of the notice or filing a claim by May 6, 2014.
(Rashid Decl. at ¶¶ 4(b) & (c), Resp. Exhibits
1-4). The Notice reads in part:
You may petition the DEA for return of the property or your
interest in the property (remission or mitigation) and/or you
may contest the seizure and forfeiture of the property in
Federal court. You should review the following procedures
Id. (emphasis in original). The Notice also
contained a section detailing the procedure for requesting
remission or mitigation of the forfeiture. Id. This
If you want to request the remission (pardon) or mitigation
of the forfeiture, you must file a petition for remission or
mitigation with the Forfeiture Counsel of the DEA within
thirty (30) days of your receipt of this notice.
Id. (emphasis in original).) Additionally, the
Notice contained a section entitled "TO CONTEST THE
FORFEITURE"" which ...