United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL United States District Judge.
James Huynh brings this action against the Gabonese Republic
("Gabon") and three individuals. Kodzo
"Michael" Massenya. Charles Mhonke. and Jean
LeGrand. for conversion, fraud. and civil conspiracy. ECF
NO.1. Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion
for Default Judgment against Defendant Gabon. ECF No. 32. No
hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the following reasons, the Motion for Default
Judgment is denied.
is a Virginia resident and at times relevant to the action.
owned approximately four acres of land in Fairfax. Virginia.
ECF No. 1 Â¶Â¶ 1. 8. Huynh
was working at a Jaguar and Land Rover/Range Rover car
dealership in Rockville. Maryland in January 2010. when he
met Defendant Jean LeGrand. Id.
¶ 10. To the best of Plaintiffs
knowledge and belief. LeGrand is a resident of Montgomery
County. Maryland. Id. ¶ 6. LeGrand visited the
Jaguar dealership approximately Fifteen times between January
2010 and October 2010. purchasing two vehicles during that
time. Id. ¶¶10-11. In August 2010. Huynh
also met Defendant Kodzo Massenya when Massenya visited the
dealership, Id. ¶ 12. To the best of Plaintiffs
knowledge and belief. Massenya is a resident of the United
Kingdom Id. ¶ 4. Massenya represented himself
is being wealthy to Huynh and expressed interest in Huynh is
Fairfax land. Id. ¶ 13. Massenya told Huynh
that he knew someone from Gabon - the son of the late
President of Gabon. in particular -who would be interested in
purchasing Huynh's land. Id. ¶14. On or
about January 3.201.. Massenya introduced Huynh to Defendant
Charles Mbonke at the Bethesda Marriott Suites in Bethesda.
Maryland, Id. ¶ 15. To the best of Plaintiff s
knowledge and belief. Mbonke is a resident of Gabon and/or
France. Id. ¶ 5. Mbonke introduced himself to
Huynh as the son of the late Gabonese President, . Omar Bongo
Ondimba. Id. ¶ 16. According to Plaintiff:
Mbonkc also stated that he was working oil behalf of the
government of the Gabonese Republic and serving as a Delegate
from Gabon to the United Nations, Id. ¶¶
17-18. Mbonke allegedly showed Huynh what appeared to be a
diplomatic passport from the Gabonese Republic in
Mbonke's name. Id. ¶ 18. Huynh found Mbonke
to by "well-spoken, well-dressed and politically
informed." Id. ¶ 16.
again met Defendants Mbonke and Massenya at the Bethesda
Marriott on January 19, 2011. ECF No. 1 ¶ 19. During
this meeting. Mbonke allegedly told Huynh how money could be
"legally printed" using "specially-produced
white paper" from the United States Treasury and "
specific chemicals. Id. ¶ 20. Mbonke and
Massenya told Huynh that this special white paper was
transported from the U.S. Treasury to the government of
Gabon, and that this process was officially sanctioned"
by both governments. Id. ¶ 21. Mbonke said that
he had some of this white paper in his possession, with
authorization from the Gabonese government to use it. See
Id. ¶ 22. Mbonke and Massenya allegedly
demonstrated to Huynh how they could turn the white paper
into bona tide U.S. currency. Id. ¶ 23. Mbonke
and Massenya asked Huynh for $800, 000. which they would use
to convert the white paper. double his sum of $800, 000. and
pay Huynh for his land. See id ¶ 24. Huynh
agreed, and withdrew $800.000 from his bank account on May
16.201J. Id. ¶ 25. Huynh gave Mbonke and
Massenya $500.000 of the funds. and turned over the remaining
$300.000 soon thereafter.. Id. ¶¶ 27-3..
19. 20I1. Huynh went with Mbonke and Massenya to a residence
in Laurel. Maryland, which Massenya represented to be
Massenyass uncle's house. ECF No. 1 ¶ 30. Mbonke and
Massenya told Huynh they were going to turn the white paper
into real money. and instructed him to wait in another room.
Id. ¶ 33. Eventually. Mbonke and Massenya told
Huynh that the white paper had a undesirable pinkish tint on
it. and that they would need additional chemicals to get rid
of the tint. Id. ¶ 34. Huynh did not actually
see any of the money during this time. Id. ~ 35.
Mbonke and Massenya told Huynh that they would allow him to
hold onto his money and the white paper money for the time
being. Id. ¶ 35. Massenya and Huynh went to
purchase two safes from a Staples supply store. which
Massenya and Mbonke said they would use to store the money.
Id. ¶ 37. Massenya and Mbonke told Huynh that
Huynh could keep the safe and the money while Mbonke traveled
to Paris to retrieve the necessary chemicals, and Mbonke
would hold onto the combination and the keys. Id.
and Mbonke told Huynh that the chemicals would cost an
additional $250, 000. of which Mbonke and Massenya would pay
$170.000. ECF No. 1 ¶ 42-43. and Huynh would need to pay
the remaining $80, 000. Id. ¶ 44. Huynh agreed
to take out the cash. See Id. ¶ 49. According
to Plaintiff. Mbonke then arranged a meeting between
Massenya. Huynh. and an "agent from a Canadian chemical
company'- Id. ¶ 45. On July 10.20I1.
Massenya and Huynh went to Reagan National Airport in Crystal
City. Virginia to meet the agent. Id
¶ 46. Massenya went inside the
airport to get the "Canadian chemical agent." and
brought him back out to the car where Huynh was waiting.
Id. 148. Massenya. Huynh. and the agent discussed
the cost of the chemicals for approximately ten minutes, and
Huynh then transferred his $80.000 into the agent's
backpack. Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiff Huynh believes
the identity of the Canadian chemical agent to actually be
Defendant LeGrand. who had visited the Jaguar dealership the
year prior. Id. ¶ 50.
days later. Mbonke called Huynh and said that the chemical
company had received part of the funds for the chemicals, and
that Mbonke would return from Paris and drive to Canada with
the rest of the funds. ECF No. 1 Â¶ 51. However, on July
16.201.. Mbonke called again and told Huynh that while Mbonke
was driving from the United States to Canada, he was pulled
over for speeding. Id. Â¶ 52. Mbonke said that he was
detained for 48 hours. that U.S. Customs had confiscated all
the money and chemicals, and that Mbonke had been sent back
to France. forbidden from returning to the United States for
at least six months. Id. ¶ 52. Mbonke asked
Huynh to inform Massenya of what had happened. Id.
¶ 53. Huynh met with Massenya one more time on July 20.
2011. Id. Â¶ 54. While Mbonke and Massenya have
allegedly maintained telephone contact with Huynh. Huynh has
never seen them again. Id. Â¶ 56.
filed the instant Complaint on May 19.2014 against the
Gabonese Republic. Kodzo Massenya. Charles Mbonke. and Jean
LeGrand. alleging conversion, fraud. and civil conspiracy.
ECF NO.1. Defendant Massenya. the only Defendant upon whom
service was effectuated, was served on September 9. 2014. ECF
No. 10. None of the Defendants has entered an appearance in
this matter. Plaintiff moved for default judgment against
Defendant Massenya on January 12.2015. but the Court denied
the Motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). which governs
judgment against multiple defendants. ECF No. 18. The Court
found that there was "just reason for delay" for
the entry of default against one Defendant., until the other
Defendants were served and the matter adjudicated as to all
Defendants. Id. at 2.  Plaintiff allegedly
continued his efforts to serve the remaining Defendants, but
as of June 2. 2016. summons were still unexecuted as to Jean
LeGrand and Charles Mbonke.
on September I. 2016. Plaintiff filed a Proof of Service
stating that the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon. had
transmitted the summons, complain., notice of suit. and
translations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the
Gabonese Republic on August 23. 2016. EC' No. 29 at 1:
ECF No. 29-1 at 4. Following want of answer or other defense,
the Clerk of the Court entered default upon Plaintiffs motion
on January 26. 2017. F.CF No. 30: ECF No. 31. Plaintiff has
now moved for default judgment against the Gabonese Republic.
ECF No. 32. Because the Court finds that Plaintiff has not
demonstrated proper subject matter jurisdiction under the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). nor established his
right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the Court. his
motion for default judgment against Gabon will be denied.
Jurisdiction under FSIA
Court must determine the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction before proceeding to the merits of a claim.
See Jones. Am. postal Workers Union. 192 F.3d 417.
422 (4th Cir. 1999). The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. 28
U.S.C. Â§ 1602 el seq., codified in part at 28
U.S.C.Â§ 1330 provides that:
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction without
regard to amount in controversy of any non jury civil action
against a foreign state as defined in section 1603(a) of this
title as to any claim for relief in personal with respect to
which the foreign state is not entitled to immunity either