Okafor v. United States, No. 14-17087 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
After DEA agents seized $99,500 in cash from plaintiff's carry-on bag at San Francisco International Airport, the DEA sent plaintiff a notice on May 1, 2013, informing plaintiff that the money was subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881 as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The notice stated that June 5, 2013 was the deadline to file a contest of the forfeiture. On June 4th, 2013, plaintiff's attorney tendered plaintiff's claim to FedEx for overnight delivery to the DEA, but the DEA did not receive the claim until June 6th. Plaintiff eventually filed a motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), arguing that the DEA had wrongfully deemed his claim untimely and that the district court should exercise its equitable jurisdiction to toll the filing deadline. The district court held that it had equitable jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's motion, but denied plaintiff's motion on the merits. The court treated section 983(e) of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. 983(e), as a claim-processing rule. In this case, the district court correctly determined that it had jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's motion for equitable relief because there is no clear jurisdictional limitation to CAFRA. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that he pursued his rights diligently and that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion.