U.S. v. Reyes
A court may not order the government to pay money damages as compensation for property that has been seized and then has been disposed of as a result of forfeiture, even if the government incorrectly sent notice of forfeiture to a corrections facility where the defendant has never resided. In 2007, the defendant, Raul Reyes, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, five or more kilograms of cocaine. Law enforcement allegedly found $5,000 on Reyes and seized $32,000 from bank accounts. Reyes filed a motion for the return of the money, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g). Reyes argued that the money was wrongfully seized and subjected to forfeiture without adequate notice. The government argued it provided notice to Reye's last-known home address, the Bridgeport Correctional Center, the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution, the bank and the Wall Street Journal. Reyes denied that he received notice that was sent to his last-known address or that he spent any time at the Bridgeport or Willard-Cybulski Correctional facilities. The government conceded that because two individuals are named "Raul Reyes," notice sent to the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution was sent to the wrong address. The court observed that notice should be published in a local newspaper of general circulation, as opposed to a national publication directed at finance experts. In a 2004 decision, Adeleke v. U.S., the 2nd Circuit wrote, "Rule 41(g), which simply provides for the return of seized property, does not waive the sovereign immunity of the United States with respect to actions for money damages related to such property." In Ruotolo v. U.S., a 2009 decision, the 2nd Circuit wrote, "[A] court can order the return of property that is in the hands of the Government, but cannot order the Government to pay money damages if the property has been disposed of, for example through forfeiture." The District Court found that because the money that was forfeited has been disbursed, the plaintiff's only claim is one for monetary damages. Because the U.S. has not consented, sovereign immunity bars the plaintiff's claim. The court granted the motion to dismiss.