United States of America v. 1975 Grumman American G-1159 et al, No. 2:2014cv00101 - Document 32 (D. Nev. 2014)

Court Description: DEFAULT JUDGMENT of Forfeiture is entered against (1) Bogart Hernandez Chavez; (2) Bertha Cruz; (3) Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (4) Norma Del Angel; (5) Ed Nunez; (6) Gerald Pitts; (7) Carlos Villaurrutia; and (8) and all persons or entities wh o claim an interest in the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA in the above-entitled action.FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORF EITURE is entered against the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA, Ford Electric Company, and Norma Gonzalez. FURT HER ORDERED that the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA be, and the same is hereby forfeited to the United States of America, and no right, title, or interest in the property shall exist in any other party, other than Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez, whose rights and liabilities are adjudged below.FURTHER ORDERED that the property having been forfeited , and after the receipt of a payment of $10,000.00 in United States Currency from Ford Electric and Norma Gonzalez to the United States of America, within a practicable time hereafter for the United States, the United States must release to Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez, through attorney George E. Crow, the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and the 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA. Signed by Judge Andrew P. Gordon on 7/16/14. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - MMM)
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United States of America v. 1975 Grumman American G-1159 et al Doc. 32 1 DANIEL G. BOGDEN United States Attorney 2 Nevada State Bar No. 2137 Michael A. Humphreys 3 Assistant United States Attorney Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse 4 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Suite 5000 Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 5 Telephone: (702) 388-6336 Facsimile: (702) 388-6787 6 Counsel for Plaintiff 7 8 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 12 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 13 Plaintiff, 14 v. 15 ) ) ) ) ) 2:14-CV-101-APG-(CWH) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 1975 GRUMMAN AMERICAN G-1159 16 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 157 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N468HW, 17 1969 GRUMMAN AMERICAN G-1159 18 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 50 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N650KA, 19 Defendants. 20 DEFAULT JUDGMENT OF FORFEITURE AS TO BOGART HERNANDEZ CHAVEZ, 21 BERTHA CRUZ, CHRISTIAN EDUARDO ESQUINO-NUNEZ, NORMA DEL ANGEL, ED NUNEZ, GERALD PITTS, CARLOS VILLAURRUTIA AND ALL PERSONS OR ENTITIES 22 WHO CLAIM AN INTEREST IN THE 1975 GRUMMAN AMERICAN G-1159 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 157 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N468HW AND 1969 GRUMMAN AMERICAN 23 G-1159 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 50 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N650KA AND 24 FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORFEITURE AS TO THE 1975 GRUMMAN AMERICAN G-1159 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 157 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N468HW, THE 1969 GRUMMAN 25 AMERICAN G-1159 AIRPLANE, SERIAL NO. 50 TAIL REGISTRATION NO. N650KA, FORD ELECTRIC COMPANY, AND NORMA GONZALEZ 26 Dockets.Justia.com 1 I. FACTS 2 1. Title 49 U.S.C. § 46306(d) authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of any aircraft whose 3 use is related to a violation of subpart (b) of that same statute. Subpart (b), in turn, makes it unlawful 4 to knowingly and willfully falsify or misrepresent any material fact that is offered in connection with 5 obtaining an official certificate to include an aircraft registration as issued by FAA. 6 2. Christian Eduardo Esquino Nunez (herein after “Eduardo Nunez” or “Nunez”), is both 7 a citizen of Mexico and a convicted felon in the United States, and as such is prohibited under federal 8 law from owning or registering an aircraft for operation in the United States. However, through 9 multiple sales arranged through strawbuyers to willfully conceal and misrepresent his involvement, 10 Nunez was able to orchestrate the illegal ownership and use of the two defendant airplanes, 1975 11 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 12 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA, in the United 13 States. 14 3. In January 2005, Nunez pled guilty in the United States District Court for the southern 15 district of California to conspiracy to commit a fraud involving an aircraft. He was sentenced, 16 amongst other things, to 24 months incarceration and was deported to his native Mexico following his 17 release from prison. 18 4. A criminal investigation begun by the DEA in 2012 showed that Nunez owned and 19 operated Starwood Management, LLC, and was responsible for registering several aircraft contrary to 20 federal law. To achieve his illegal goal, Nunez, amongst other things, also employed nominees to 21 conceal his identity as the person in charge. 22 5. The investigation showed that earlier, on December 31, 2007, Nunez assumed control 23 of Starwood Management, LLC., and designated his sister-in-law, Norma Gonzalez a/k/a Norma de la 24 Cruz, as the front person (or Managing Member) of the company. Norma Gonzalez, a United States 25 citizen, was a nominee or straw woman and in practice had no authority to run the company. 26 . . . 2 1 6. Starwood Management, LLC. purchased the N468HW aircraft on September 7, 2012. 2 Nunez was the person who authorized the release of funds from the escrow company to complete the 3 sale. 4 7. On January 30, 2013, N650KA, Inc. purchased the N650KA aircraft. Again, even 5 though the funds originally came from the bank account of Bertha de la Cruz, Nunez authorized the 6 release of funds from the escrow company to complete the sale. 7 8. On September 9, 2013, the N468HW aircraft, now owned by N468HW, Inc., was 8 transferred, and not sold, to Ford Electric Co. 9 9. On September 10, 2013, the N650KA aircraft, owned by N650KA, Inc., was 10 transferred, and not sold, to Ford Electric Co. Carlos Villaurrutia is the sole corporate officer of Ford 11 Electric Co., holding multiple titles of President, Secretary and Director. On information and belief, 12 Carlos Villaurrutia is the nephew of Eduardo Nunez. 13 10. The transfers of both aircraft were performed by AeroTitle Company on September 9 14 and 10, 2013, respectively. Jacinda Janko, President of AeroTitle, oversaw the escrow transactions for 15 both aircraft. 16 11. In administering the sale of both airplanes through AeroTitle, Janko dealt exclusively 17 with Eduardo Nunez. Janko exchanged several emails and had several telephone conversations with a 18 person who identified himself as Eduardo Nunez, wherein he instructed her on how to carry out all 19 aspects of the transfer on behalf of Ford Electric Co. Any and all information that Janko used to 20 facilitate the transfer of ownership of both aircraft came directly and exclusively from Eduardo Nunez. 21 12. When the transactions were complete for both aircraft, Janko communicated that fact 22 directly to Eduardo Nunez. 23 13. The Bills of Sale for the transfers of the N650KA and N468HW aircrafts were signed 24 by Norma de la Cruz in September 2013, as Treasurer of both N650KA, Inc. and N468HW, Inc. On 25 information and belief, Norma de la Cruz is the sister-in-law of Eduardo Nunez. 26 . . . 3 1 14. The Federal Aviation Administration Aircraft Application Registration forms for the 2 two defendant aircrafts were signed by Norma del Angel (a/k/a Norma de la Cruz) in September 2013, 3 as the President of Ford Electric Co. 4 15. FltPlan.com is a company that aircraft owners use to file flight plans as well as submit 5 flight manifests for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. 6 Records filed with Fltplan.com for aircraft N468HW, while the plane was held by Starwood 7 Management, LLC, N468HW, Inc., and Ford Electric Co., showed that the Emergency Contact was 8 identified as Eduardo Nunez, and listed a phone number and email address seen in escrow files 9 associated with Eduardo Nunez. That information never changed as title in the aircraft changed from 10 one company to the next. 11 II. PROCEDURE 12 16. The United States of America (“United States”) filed a verified Complaint for 13 Forfeiture in Rem on May 1, 2014. Complaint, ECF No. 11. The Complaint (ECF No. 11) alleges the 14 defendant property: a. 15 is subject to forfeiture, pursuant to Title 49 U.S.C. § 46306(d) which provides 16 that the Administrator of DEA may seize and forfeit an aircraft whose use is 17 related to a violation of subsection (b) of section 46306. Specifically, the 18 defendant aircraft is registered to a false or fictitious person, in violation of § 19 46306 (b)(4). 20 17. On May 5, 2014, the Court entered an Amended Order for Summons and Warrant of 21 Arrest in Rem for the Property and Notice and issued the Summonses and Warrants of Arrest in Rem. 22 Amended Order for Summons and Warrant, ECF No. 16; Summonses and Warrants, ECF Nos. 17 and 23 18). 24 18. Pursuant to the Amended Order (ECF No. 16), the Complaint (ECF No. 11), the 25 Amended Order (ECF No. 16), the Summonses and Warrants (ECF Nos. 17 and 18), and the Notice of 26 Complaint for Forfeiture (ECF No. 20, p. 13-15) were served on the 1975 Grumman American G4 1 1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 2 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA, and all persons claiming an interest in the 3 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 4 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA. Notice was 5 published according to law. 6 19. Pursuant to Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture 7 Actions (“Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Rule”) G(5), all persons interested in the defendant property were 8 required to: (1) file a verified claim, setting forth the person=s or its interest in the property, that (a) 9 identifies the specific interest in the property claimed, (b) identifies the claimant and states the 10 claimant=s interest in the property, and (c) is signed by the claimant under penalty of perjury pursuant 11 to 28 U.S.C. ' 1746; (2) file the verified claim with the Clerk of the above-entitled Court no later than 12 35 days after the notice is sent or, if direct notice was not sent, no later than 60 days after the first day 13 of publication on the official internet government forfeiture site, www.forfeiture.gov; (3) file an 14 answer to the Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem or a motion under Rule 12 with the Clerk of the Court, 15 Lloyd D. George United States Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89101, 16 no later than 21 days after filing the verified claim; and (4) serve a copy of the verified claim and the 17 answer at the time of each filing on Michael A. Humphreys, Assistant United States Attorney, Lloyd 18 D. George United States Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Suite 5000, Las Vegas, Nevada 19 89101. Complaint, ECF No. 11; Amended Order for Summons and Warrant, ECF No. 16; Summonses 20 and Warrants, ECF Nos. 17 and 18; Notice of Complaint, ECF No. 20, p. 13-15. 21 20. Public notice of the forfeiture action and arrest was given to all persons and entities by 22 publication via the official internet government forfeiture site, www.forfeiture.gov, from May 6, 2014, 23 through June 4, 2014. Notice of Filing Proof of Publication, ECF Nos. 23-24. 24 21. On May 8, 2014, the United States Marshals Service served the Complaint, the 25 Amended Order, the Summonses and Warrants of Arrest in Rem for the Property, and the Notice by 26 executing them on the defendant property. Notice of Filing Service of Process, ECF No. 19. 5 1 22. On May 6, 2014, the United States Attorney’s Office served the Complaint, the 2 Amended Order for Summons and Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the Property and Notice, the 3 Summonses and Warrants of Arrest in Rem for the Property, and the Notice of Complaint for 4 Forfeiture and Arrest on Bogart Hernandez Chavez, Bertha Cruz, Ford Electric Co., Christian Eduardo 5 Esquino-Nunez, Norma Gonzalez and/or Norma Del Angel, Ed Nunez, Gerald Pitts, Carlos 6 Villaurrutia, and George Crow by and through George E. Crow, their counsel by certified return 7 receipt mail and regular mail. Notice of Filing Service of Process, ECF No. 20, p. 1-7 and 13-30. 8 23. On May 6, 2014, the United States Attorney’s Office served the Complaint, the 9 Amended Order for Summons and Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the Property and Notice, the 10 Summonses and Warrants of Arrest in Rem for the Property, and the Notice of Complaint for 11 Forfeiture and Arrest on Corporate Agents, LLC, Registered Agent for Ford Electric Co., by certified 12 return receipt mail and regular mail. Notice of Filing Service of Process, ECF No. 20, p. 8-30. 13 24. On May 30, 2014, Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez filed a claim for each 14 aircraft. Claims, ECF Nos. 21 and 22. 15 25. On June 12, 2014, Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzelez filed an Answer to the 16 Complaint for each aircraft. Answer, ECF No. 25. 17 26. On June 20, 2014, the United States filed a Stipulation for Compromise Settlement, 18 regarding the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. 19 N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. 20 N650KA. Claimant waived, among other things, service of process. Stipulation for Compromise 21 Settlement, ECF No. 27. 22 27. On June 20, 2014, the Court entered the Order granting the Stipulation for Compromise 23 Settlement. Order Granting Stipulation for Compromise Settlement, ECF No. 28. 24 28. No other person or entity has filed a claim, answer, or responsive pleading within the 25 time permitted by 18 U.S.C.§ 983(a)(4) and Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Rule G(4) and (5). 26 . . . 6 1 29. Bogart Hernandez Chavez is not in the military service within the purview of the 2 Servicemen’s Civil Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 1. 3 30. Bertha Cruz is not in the military service within the purview of the Servicemen’s Civil 4 Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 2. 5 31. Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez is not in the military service within the purview of 6 the Servicemen’s Civil Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 3. 7 32. Norma Del Angel is not in the military service within the purview of the Servicemen’s 8 Civil Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 4. 9 33. Ed Nunez is not in the military service within the purview of the Servicemen’s Civil 10 Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 5. 11 34. Gerald Pitts is not in the military service within the purview of the Servicemen’s Civil 12 Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 6. 13 35. Carlos Villaurrutia is not in the military service within the purview of the Servicemen’s 14 Civil Relief Act of 2003. Exhibit 7. 15 36. On July 7, 2014, the United States filed a Motion for Entry of Clerk’s Default against: 16 (1) the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW; 17 (2) the 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA; (3) 18 Bogart Hernandez Chavez; (4) Bertha Cruz; (5) Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (6) Norma Del 19 Angel; (7) Ed Nunez; (8) Gerald Pitts; (9) Carlos Villaurrutia; and (10) and all persons or entities who 20 claim an interest in the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration 21 No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. 22 N650KA in the above-entitled action except Ford Electric Co. and Norma Gonzalez. Motion for Entry 23 of Clerk’s Default, ECF No. 29. 24 37. On July 9, 2014, the Clerk of the Court entered a Default against: (1) the 1975 25 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW; (2) the 1969 26 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA; (3) Bogart 7 1 Hernandez Chavez; (4) Bertha Cruz; (5) Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (6) Norma Del Angel; (7) 2 Ed Nunez; (8) Gerald Pitts; (9) Carlos Villaurrutia; and (10) all persons or entities who claim an 3 interest in the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. 4 N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. 5 N650KA in the above-entitled action except Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez. Entry of 6 Clerk’s Default, ECF No. 30. 7 38. Norma Gonzalez is neither a minor nor an incompetent person. 8 III. JUDGMENT 9 39. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c) and 55(d), the judgment by default does not “differ in 10 kind from, or exceed [the] amount” of relief listed in the complaint for forfeiture. 11 IV. DEFAULT AND ENTRY OF DEFAULT 12 40. As shown above, the United States has requested entry of Clerk’s Default against: (1) 13 the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW; (2) 14 the 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA; (3) 15 Bogart Hernandez Chavez; (4) Bertha Cruz; (5) Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (6) Norma Del 16 Angel; (7) Ed Nunez; (8) Gerald Pitts; (9) Carlos Villaurrutia; and (10) all persons or entities who 17 claim an interest in the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration 18 No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. 19 N650KA in the above-entitled action except Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez. (ECF No. 20 29). The Clerk entered the Default as requested (ECF No. 30). 21 V. NOTICE 22 41. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Rule G(4)(a)(iv)(C), the United States published 23 notice via the official internet government forfeiture site, www.forfeiture.gov, for thirty consecutive 24 days. See above. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Rule G(4)(b), the United States served the 25 Complaint, the Order for Summons and Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the Property and Notice, the 26 . . . 8 1 Summons and Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the Property, and the Notice of Complaint for Forfeiture 2 and Arrest on all known potential claimants. See above. 3 VI. LEGAL SUFFICIENCY OF THE COMPLAINT 4 42. The Complaint filed in this action was verified. The Court has subject matter 5 jurisdiction, in rem jurisdiction over the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 6 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail 7 Registration No. N650KA, and venue. 8 particularity. The Complaint described the property with reasonable The Complaint states where the seizure of the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 9 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 10 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA occurred and its current location. The 11 Complaint identifies the statute under which the forfeiture action is brought. The Complaint alleges 12 sufficiently detailed facts to support a reasonable belief that the United States will be able to meet its 13 burden proof at trial. See facts above. Complaint, ECF No. 11. Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Rule G(2). 14 43. The allegations of the Complaint are sustained by the evidence and are adopted as 15 findings of fact. The Court concludes as a matter of law that the United States is entitled to the relief 16 requested in the Complaint. 17 VII. POTENTIAL CLAIMANTS 18 44. Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez have entered into a Settlement Agreement 19 with the United States. No other person has filed a claim and the time to file a claim has passed. 20 45. Based on the foregoing this Court finds that the United States has shown its entitlement 21 to a Default Judgment of Forfeiture as to: (1) Bogart Hernandez Chavez; (2) Bertha Cruz; (3) Christian 22 Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (4) Norma Del Angel; (5) Ed Nunez; (6) Gerald Pitts; (7) Carlos 23 Villaurrutia; and (8) all persons or entities who claim an interest in the 1975 Grumman American G24 1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 25 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA and Final Judgment of Forfeiture as to 1975 26 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 9 1 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA, Ford Electric 2 Company, and Norma Gonzalez. 3 NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that 4 Default Judgment of Forfeiture is entered against: (1) Bogart Hernandez Chavez; (2) Bertha Cruz; (3) 5 Christian Eduardo Esquino-Nunez; (4) Norma Del Angel; (5) Ed Nunez; (6) Gerald Pitts; (7) Carlos 6 Villaurrutia; and (8) and all persons or entities who claim an interest in the 1975 Grumman American 7 G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G8 1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA in the above-entitled action. 9 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Final Judgment of 10 Forfeiture is entered against the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail 11 Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail 12 Registration No. N650KA, Ford Electric Company, and Norma Gonzalez. 13 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the 1975 Grumman 14 American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail Registration No. N468HW and 1969 Grumman 15 American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail Registration No. N650KA be, and the same is hereby 16 forfeited to the United States of America, and no right, title, or interest in the property shall exist in 17 any other party, other than Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez, whose rights and liabilities 18 are adjudged below. 19 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDED AND DECREED, that, the property having been 20 forfeited, and after the receipt of a payment of $10,000.00 in United States Currency from Ford 21 Electric and Norma Gonzalez to the United States of America, within a practicable time hereafter for 22 the United States, the United States must release to Ford Electric Company and Norma Gonzalez, 23 through attorney George E. Crow, the 1975 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 157 Tail 24 Registration No. N468HW and the 1969 Grumman American G-1159 Airplane, Serial No. 50 Tail 25 Registration No. N650KA. 26 . . . 10 1 IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2465(a)(2), that there was reasonable 2 cause for the seizure or arrest of the defendant property. 3 4 ___________________________________ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 5 6 July 16, 2015 DATED:___________________________ 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 11