the Christmas season, presumably in an effort to hide the
money. In addition, claimant travelled under a false name and
gave misleading information to the DEA agents. The aggregate of
these facts certainly satisfies the probable cause requirement
linking the defendant-in-rem to either purchase money or
proceeds of narcotics trafficking.
Moreover, even if the aggregate of facts fell short of
satisfying the probable cause requirement, the canine
identification of claimant's luggage alone is sufficient to
establish probable cause. See U.S. v. $33,200, 1989 WL 42504
(E.D.N.Y. 1989) citing U.S. v. Johnson, 660 F.2d 21, 22 (2d
Cir. 1981) (where the court held that narcotic canine
identification is a sufficient and objective way to establish
probable cause of the existence of drugs.) See also U.S. v.
Waltzer, 682 F.2d 370, 373 (2d Cir. 1982) (where the court held
that probable cause has been established as to the person
possessing the luggage where designation by a dog with a record
of accuracy occurs.) Here, Zoom, the U.S. Customs trained
dog*fn2, singled out claimant's property by biting his
luggage. This strong reaction indicated narcotic residue on the
property, and thus established probable cause.
In response, claimant raised the innocent owner defense. This
defense, as set forth in the forfeiture statute
21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), provides in pertinent part, "no property shall be
forfeited under this paragraph, to the extent of the interest
of an owner, by reason of any act or omission established by
that owner to have committed or omitted without the knowledge
or consent of that owner." However, it is claimant's
responsibility to prove an absence of actual knowledge that the
money had any connection to illegal narcotic tranactions.
United States v. Four Million Two Hundred Fifty-Five Thousand,
762 F.2d at 907. That is, once the government satisfies the
requirement of showing probable cause, the burden shifts to the
claimant to rebut the government's evidence. United States v.
Four Million Two Hundred Fifty-Five Thousand, 762 F.2d at 904.
To rebut the government's evidence, the claimant must
demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the money
seized was not derived from or intended to be used to
faciliatate a narcotics transaction. United States v. Four
Million Two Hundred Fifty-Five Thousand, 762 F.2d at 904; U.S.
v. U.S. Currency Totalling $29,500.00, 677 F. Supp. 1181
(N.D.Ga. 1988). Moreover, "speculation must leave the burdened
party the loser." U.S. v. Fleming, 677 F.2d 602, 610 (7th Cir.
Here, claimant failed to establish that the money was not
connected to illegal drug transactions. The numerous
conflicting stories he provided are incredible. His final story
of acquiring the money from a former lover who has since died
of AIDS is unsubstantiated and unpersuasive.*fn3 Claimant has
repeatedly lied, both under oath and to the DEA agents.
Moreover, the fact that he did not declare the money to the
federal government and only declared the money as other income
to the State government, poses substantial questions for
claimant which he did not satisfactorily answer.*fn4
In conclusion, the canine identification coupled with the
totality of the circumstances conclusively satisfies the
government's requirement of demonstrating probable cause
connecting the defendant-in-rem to illegal narcotic
transactions, and claimant did not establish by a preponderance
of the evidence that the money was not associated with illegal
narcotic activity. Thus, the Government's forfeiture
application must be and hereby is granted.