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UNITED STATES v. ONE 1975 MERCURY MONARCH

October 5, 1976.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
ONE 1975 MERCURY MONARCH SERIAL NO. 5E35L539729, Defendant In Rem.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAIGHT

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER HAIGHT, District Judge.

This is an action by plaintiff, the United States of America, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881, for the forfeiture of the defendant in rem, one 1975 Mercury Monarch, Serial No. 5E35L539729. Trial was held to the Court without a jury on August 25, 1976. On the basis of the evidence admitted at the trial, I make the following Findings of Fact:

 1. At all pertinent times, the Monarch was owned by the claimant, Ephraim Ramos.

 2. On September 6, 1975, Ramos shipped four crates of marijuana from Puerto Rico to New York, by air freight, designating as consignee in the shipment contract one "Edwin Rays, 1115 Jerome Avenue, Bronx, New York".

 3. Agents in New York of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") had received information of this shipment. Accordingly they made arrangements to intercept the crates at John F. Kennedy Airport, and to set up a "controlled delivery". Under this procedure, DEA and other law enforcement officers intercept the shipment in question, disguise themselves as delivery men, and deliver the shipment to the indicated address, in order to see what happens next, and whether the opportunity for further arrests may arise.

 4. On September 8, 1975, DEA agents, disguised as employees of Airlift International, Inc., loaded the crates on an Airlift International truck and delivered them to the address as 1115 Jerome Avenue, in the Bronx. The truck was followed by other DEA agents.

 5. The truck arrived at the Bronx address shortly before 3:30 p.m. on September 8. Shortly thereafter, one James Connolly accepted delivery of the four crates of marijuana, and was placed under arrest.

 6. DEA agents kept watch over the Jerome Avenue address. At about 4:00 p.m., the Mercury Monarch in suit arrived, parked directly in front of 1115 Jerome Avenue, and claimant Ramos emerged from the vehicle. Ramos approached the front doorway of 1115 Jerome Avenue, engaged in a short conversation with Connolly, and then returned to the Monarch. As he got into the Monarch, Ramos was placed under arrest by law enforcement officers. Only two to three minutes had elapsed from the time Ramos left the vehicle until he was arrested.

 7. Immediately upon his arrest, Ramos was searched by a DEA agent. A folded dollar bill containing cocaine was found in his wallet, and a clear plastic vial with a black top and spoon attached, also containing cocaine, was found in his pants pocket. Several minutes thereafter, another DEA agent searched the Monarch. This search disclosed a green suitcase in the trunk, which was empty but for a residue of marijuana.

 8. The nature of the substances found on the person of Ramos (cocaine) and in the trunk of the Monarch (marijuana residue) was established by credible evidence given by DEA and other officers on the scene, and by Government laboratory technicians to whom these substances had been delivered for analysis.

 9. Ramos, although present in the courtroom at the trial, and represented by counsel, did not testify. However, the Court received in evidence his answers to interrogatories propounded by the Government. Interrogatory number 20 inquired as to the reasons for Ramos's claim that the Monarch was not subject to forfeiture. The answer to that interrogatory reads as follows:

 "I was in Puerto Rico to visit my mother, and at that time I was given a sum of money to ship four crates from Puerto Rico to New York. I was told they contained electric parts. I knew there had to be something wrong, since I received money to ship the crates, but I did not know there was marihuana in the crates. I first learned that there was marihuana in the crates by the Plaintiff. On September 8, 1975, I was visiting the premises of Jerome Reis, to whom I was told to ship and check if same arrived. I had absolutely no intention of transporting any of the crates in the Defendant In Rem vehicle. This is easily established, as it would be impossible for one of the crates to fit in the back of Defendant In Rem vehicle, or its trunk. The Plaintiff possessed the crates and even if destroyed, they have the dimensions and can verify that none of the creates would fit in the Defendant In Rem vehicle or its trunk." (emphasis added).

 10. It further appears from Ramos's answers to interrogatories (No. 21), and other evidence admitted on the trial, that Ramos pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment returned in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, namely, a charge of possession, with intent to distribute, the marijuana contained in the four crates which had been shipped from Puerto Rico to New York, and which have been referred to in the preceding Findings of Fact.

 The Applicable Principles of Law

 The substantive statute governing this case is 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(4), which provides for the forfeiture to the United States of:

 "All conveyances, including aircraft, vehicles, or vessels, which are used, or are intended for use, to transport, or in any manner to facilitate the transportation, sale, receipt, possession, or concealment of property ...


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