United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER DENYING MERRITT'S MOTION TO
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Claimant Don Merritt's
(“Merritt”) Motion to Dismiss. (Filing No.
10.) Plaintiff, the United States of America (the
“Government”), initiated this action seeking
forfeiture of Defendant $42, 600.00 United States Currency
(“Currency”) that it seized, pursuant to 21 U.S.C
§ 881(a)(6) because it allegedly constitutes proceeds
of, or was used to facilitate, a violation of the Controlled
Substances Act. (Filing No. 1.) Merritt moves to
dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. For the reasons stated below, the
Court denies Merritt's Motion to Dismiss
required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court
accepts as true the factual allegations in the Complaint and
draws all inferences in favor of the Government as the
non-moving party. See Bielanski v. County of Kane,
550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).
October 2010, Merritt was convicted after pleading guilty in
state court to dealing in cocaine, a Class A felony.
(Filing No. 1 at 2.) The Marion Superior Court
sentenced Merritt to twenty (20) years in prison.
Id. He received credit for time served and
applicable credit time allowing him to obtain parole on
February 19, 2018. Id. On May 16, 2018, parole
officers with the Indiana Department of Correction visited
Merritt at his residence located at 2013 North Euclid Avenue,
Indianapolis, Indiana. Id. The officers searched
Merritt's room under the authority granted to them by
Merritt's parole status. Id. Underneath
Merritt's bed and inside a black plastic bag, officers
found $42, 600.00 United States Currency. Id. at 3.
The Currency was rubber-banded in thousand-dollar increments,
then banded again in increments of five thousand dollars.
Id. Two syringes and rolling papers were also found
in Merritt's room. Id.
Merritt's adult family members consented to a search of
the entire home. Id. In the basement, officers found
a scale and a kilogram-sized plastic bag with marijuana
residue or “shake” inside it. Id. An
officer of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department
deputized as a Task Force Officer with Department of Homeland
Security, Homeland Security Investigations
(“DHS-HSI”) was called to the scene to assist the
parole officers. Id. A certified narcotics detection
canine also assisted and gave a positive indication for the
odor of a controlled substance on the Currency. Id.
officers read Merritt his Miranda rights, he made a
statement concerning the Currency. Merritt stated that the
money belonged to his girlfriend from the sale of a home.
Id. However, he declined to provide his
girlfriend's contact information. Id. Merritt
verbally denied ownership of the Currency and signed a
DHS-HSI abandonment form disclaiming any ownership of the
Currency. Id. On May 16, 2018, DHS-HSI seized the
Currency as being the proceeds of, or used to facilitate,
unlawful distribution of controlled substances. Id.
On December 12, 2018, the Government filed a Complaint of
Forfeiture in Rem based on these facts. (Filing
No. 1.) On February 15, 2019, Merritt filed a Motion to
Dismiss. (Filing No. 10.) Thereafter, the Government
filed its Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (Filing No.
11), and Merritt filed a Reply (Filing No. 12).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move
to dismiss a complaint that has failed to “state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all factual allegations
in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 633. However,
courts “are not obliged to accept as true legal
conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact.”
Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir.
complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Therefore, the court
must determine whether the complaint contains sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
United States Supreme Court further explained that although
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or
“formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of
action” are insufficient. Id. See
Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603
(7th Cir. 2009) (“it is not enough to give a threadbare
recitation of the elements of a claim without factual
support”). To be facially plausible, the complaint must
allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
addition, civil forfeiture complaints are subject to a
heightened pleading standard described in Federal Rule Civil
Procedure Supplemental Rule G. See United States v. Funds
in the Amount of $239, 400, 795 F.3d 639, 641
(7th Cir. 2015) (“Rule G is a supplement to the Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure that applies to in rem
actions”). The rule states, in relevant part, that a
(a) be verified; (b) state the grounds for subject-matter
jurisdiction, in rem jurisdiction over the defendant
property, and venue; (c) describe the property with
reasonable particularity; (d) if the property is tangible,
state its location when any seizure occurred and - if
different - its location when the action is filed; (e)
identify the statute under which the forfeiture action is
brought; and (f) state sufficiently detailed ...