Cruz-Hernandez v. Funds in the Amount of $271,080, No. 15-2857 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Chicago police responded to an emergency at the house where Pedro and Abraham lived with others. Pedro stated that armed intruders had broken in, tied up the occupants, and demanded money and drugs. In a bedroom, police saw a handgun, a digital scale, and a small amount of marijuana. A drug dog signaled the presence of drugs in Pedro’s van, parked outside. After obtaining a warrant, police discovered, in the van, a safe containing $271,080 and notes including dates and numbers. A second dog alerted to the safe. No drugs were found. Pedro stated that after the intruders left, he moved Abraham’s safe to the van in case they returned and that he did not know its contents. The government brought no criminal charges, but sought forfeiture, 21 U.S.C. 881(a)(6). The brothers swore that the money is their savings from working and that they were not involved in criminal activity. Weeks before the seizure, U.S. Immigration had recorded Abraham saying that he did not have any “equities” in the U.S.; Abraham’s application for cancellation of removal, filed with the assistance of counsel six months after the seizure, lists only $2,000 in “cash assets.” The Seventh Circuit vacated summary judgment in favor of the government. A jury reasonably could find that the evidence fails to establish, even by a preponderance, that the money is substantially connected to drug trafficking.