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United States v. Robertos

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 6, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERTO S. GRAHAM, individually and d/b/a Tico Dental Laboratories, ANA CECILIA GRAHAM, ELENA S. GRAHAM, WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, WELLS FARGO, N.A., OCWEN LOAN SERVICING, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, District Judge.

Plaintiff United States of America ("the Government") commenced this action on March 12, 2013, against Defendants Roberto S. Graham, Ana Cecilia Graham ("Ana"), Elena S. Graham ("Elena"), Wells Fargo Home Mortgage ("Home Mortgage"), Wells Fargo N.A. ("Wells Fargo"), and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC ("Ocwen") (collectively, "Defendants").[1] The Government seeks (1) to collect unpaid federal tax liabilities from Defendant Roberto S. Graham, individually ("Roberto") and doing business as Tico Dental Laboratories ("Tico"); (2) to enforce federal tax liens against real property located at 730 East 96th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11236 ("96th Street Property"); and (3) to enforce federal tax liens against real property located at 582 Wyona Street, Brooklyn, NY 11207 ("Wyona Property"). Currently before this Court is the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Government seeks summary judgment on the issues of the correctness of the Government's tax assessments, the ability of the Government to attach Roberto's interest in the 96th Street Property, and the ability of the Government to attach Roberto's interest in the Wyona Property. Defendants oppose the Government's motion to dismiss on the basis that the Government's tax assessments are incorrect and on the basis that the extent of Roberto's interest in the Wyona Property is an issue of fact inappropriate for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are either undisputed or described in the light most favorable to Defendants, the non-moving parties. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 n.1 (2d Cir. 2005).

Between 2000 and 2010, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury made assessments against Defendant Roberto S. Graham, individually and doing business as Tico Dental Laboratories, for failure to pay federal income taxes, employment taxes, unemployment taxes, penalties, and interest. Dkt. 39-2 ("Pl's Rule 56.1 Statement") at ¶ 1; Dkt. 42-1 ("Defs' Rule 56.1 Statement") at ¶ 1. Based on its assessment, the Government seeks to collect personal income tax liabilities for the tax periods ending from December 31, 2000 to and including December 31, 2008; employment tax liabilities for all quarterly periods from March 31, 2002 to and including December 31, 201 O; and unemployment tax liabilities for periods ending from December 31, 2000 to and including December 31, 2004 and again from December 31, 2006 to and including December 31, 2009, as well as penalties and interest (collectively, "the relevant tax periods"). Dkt 39-1 ("Pl's Memo in Support") at 1-2. Between March 16, 2005, and July 26, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") filed twenty-two Notices of Federal Tax Liens for the various tax assessments reported on Forms 941 against Roberto in the Register's Office, Kings County, Brooklyn, New York. See Dkt. 39 ("Motion for Summary Judgment"), Ex. 56-78; Defs' Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 4-26. In total, Roberto S. Graham has been assessed as owing $484, 718.00 as of December 31, 2013, as well as interest that has accrued since that date. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 55 at ¶ 6.

In order to satisfy the unpaid tax assessments, the Government is seeking to enforce federal tax liens against two pieces of real property in which the Government alleges Roberto holds an interest. The first property, 730 East 96th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11236, ("96th Street Property") was acquired on June 11, 1981, by Roberto and his wife Ana. Pl's Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 27; Defs' Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 27. The second property, 582 Wyona Street, Brooklyn, New York 11207, ("Wyona Property") was acquired on January 8, 1974. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 81. Roberto and Elena, his younger sister, were both listed on the property deed for the Wyona Property at the time it was acquired. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 81; Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 83 at ¶ 3; Pl's Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 31; Defs' Rule 56.1 Statement at ¶ 31. Elena stated that she listed Robert as a joint owner of the Wyona Property so that she "could be certain that in the event of [her] death or disability no additional steps would have to be taken by [her] family to transfer title [of the real property]." Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 83 at ¶ 3. Elena further stated that she would have wanted Roberto to own and manage the property in her absence. Id.

On February 17, 2010, Roberto transferred his interest in the Wyona Property to Elena for ten dollars. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 82. Elena indicated in her affidavit that Roberto transferred his interest to her to simplify the process of her being able to take out a loan on the property. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 83 at ¶ 4. Elena also explained that Roberto had never lived at the Wyona property, had never paid taxes on it, and had never received rents from it. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 83 at pg. 3-7. Roberto's statements in his affidavit support this statement of affairs as well. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. 83-A.

Presently before this Court is the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Government seeks summary judgment on three grounds. First, it seeks summary judgment on the issue of the value of the tax assessments made against Roberto individually and doing business as Tica. Second, the Government seeks summary judgment on the issue of whether it can attach Roberto's interest in the 96th Street Property as a tenant by the entirety with his wife, Ana, in order to satisfy the tax assessments made against Roberto individually and doing business as Tica. Third, the Government seeks summary judgment on the issue of whether it can attach Roberto's fifty-percent interest in the Wyona Property that he held at the time of the tax assessments as a tenant in common with his sister, Elena, in order to satisfy the tax assessments made against Roberto individually and doing business as Tica. Defendants contest both the value of the tax assessments made against Roberto individually and doing business as Tica as well as whether and what interest Roberto held in the Wyona Property at the time of the tax assessments. The Court will address each issue in tum.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

A court appropriately grants summary judgment if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). No genuine issue of material fact exists "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Lovejoy-Wilson v. NOCO Motor Fuel, Inc., 263 F.3d 208, 212 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The moving party must meet its burden by pointing to evidence in the record, including depositions, documents, affidavits, or other materials which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, [the] Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The role of the district court is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to perform "the threshold inquiry of whether there is the need for a trial[.]" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

If the moving party fulfills its preliminary burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to raise the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(l). Statements that are devoid of specifics and evidence that is merely colorable are insufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Bickerstaffv. Vassar Coll., 196 F.3d 435, 452 (2d Cir. 1999); Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998). "A dispute about a genuine issue' exists for summary judgment purposes where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide in the non-movant's favor." Beyer v. Cnty. of Nassau, 524 F.3d 160, 163 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Guilbert v. Gardner, 480 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2007)).

II. Analysis

A. Challenging the Validity of Tax ...


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