United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION and ORDER
ROBERT L. MILLER, Jr., District Judge.
Nolberto Robledo pleaded guilty to knowingly and intentionally possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine, a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b). In October 2012, the court sentenced Mr. Robledo to seventy months' imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Mr. Robledo now seeks the return of $143, 459 in cash that was seized from the vehicle that he was driving when he was stopped by Indiana State Police on July 10, 2011. He filed a motion for return of property, a motion to set aside judicial forfeiture, and a reply in further support of his motion for return of property. The court asked the government to respond to Mr. Robledo's initial motion, and the government did so, later supplementing its response with further evidence.
In his plea agreement, Mr. Robledo acknowledged the following facts:
I acknowledge that in July 2011, I was hired by a person in California to transport a vehicle and some illegal drugs to Elkhart, Indiana. I drove the vehicle to Indiana and met with a person who had me follow him to a location where I drove the vehicle inside a garage. Once inside, the drugs were removed and cash put into the car to go back to California. I also received some money for driving the drugs out to Indiana. I knew that what I was doing was illegal. The drugs that I actually transported turned out to be cocaine. I left the garage area and drove from Elkhart to the South Bend area before starting back to California where I intended to turn the car over to others. I was stopped by the police and they took the car from me. I did make contact with the person who sent me with the drugs and let him know the police had taken the vehicle.
(Plea Agreement, Doc. No. 116, 4-5, ¶ 7(h)). Mr. Robledo again confirmed these facts to be true at the change of plea hearing held on July 25, 2012 (Tr. Of Guilty Plea Hr'g, Doc. No. 184, 18-19). In LaPorte, Indiana, an Indiana State Police officer stopped Mr. Robledo who was driving a Nissan Maxima registered to a codefendant. A drug dog alerted positively to the car, and the police seized the car. After obtaining a warrant the next day, the police searched the car and seized $143, 459 in cash discovered in a secret compartment.
The original indictment alleged that Mr. Robledo violated 21 U.S.C. § 846, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), possession with intent to distribute and distribution of Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances (marijuana and cocaine), and 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3), interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and included a forfeiture allegation. The superseding indictment alleged that Mr. Robledo violated the same statutes but didn't include a forfeiture provision. In July 2012, Mr. Robledo pleaded guilty to count 3 of the superseding indictment, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine. The plea agreement included the following provision regarding forfeiture:
I agree to hold the United States, its agents and employees harmless from any claims whatsoever in connection with the seizure or forfeiture of property covered by this agreement; I agree to forfeit all my interest in any drug related assets that I currently own, have previously owned or over which I currently, or have in the past, exercised control, directly or indirectly, and any property that I have transferred, as well as any property that is traceable to, derived from, fungible with, or a substitute for property that constitutes the proceeds of my offense, including but not limited to the following specific property: see Attachment A for listing of property in case subject to forfeiture or already has been forfeited.
(Plea Agreement, Doc. No. 116, 5, ¶ 7(j)). Attachment A of the plea agreement included "$143, 459 - IN ROBLEDO'S RED MAXIMA" and "2005 RED NISSAN MAXIMA - Vin#IN4BA41E15C849878. REGISTERED TO PEREZ-CARRILLO." At the change of plea hearing, the court confirmed that Mr. Robledo agreed to forfeit certain property - including money.
THE COURT: Now, as I understand it, the Government has agreed to dismiss Counts 1 and 2 of the superseding indictment and to dismiss the entire original indictment when we get to sentencing, and you've also agreed to forfeit certain property, to the extent it hasn't already been forfeited to the Government, including money and a car.
And to the extent you have any interest in the items that are attached to the plea agreement in Attachment A, as I understand it, you're saying the Government can have those, and you'll sign whatever papers have to be signed for the Government to get those things.
Do I understand that the same way you do?
MR. ROBLEDO THROUGH INTERPRETER: Yes.
(Tr. Of Guilty Plea Hr'g, Doc. No. 184, 14). The court granted the government's motion to dismiss the remaining counts at sentencing. See Doc. No. 146.
Mr. Robledo initially filed a motion for return of property pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) and argues that the $144, 000 wasn't contraband as defined by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and therefore not subject to forfeiture. He then filed a motion to set aside judicial forfeiture pursuant to the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act and argues that he didn't receive notice as required by ...