United States v. $671,160 in U.S. Currency

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 09-18-2013
  • Case #: 11-56924
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tallman for the Court, Circuit Judges Clifton and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

When a person has shown past extensive travel, has had opportunity to appear for proceedings, and has represented opposition to returning to the country; it amounts to a totality of circumstances showing they are deliberately avoiding criminal prosecution for the purposes of the Fugitive Disentitlement Statute.

Mike Ionita (“Ionita”) appealed the district court’s dismissal of his claim to $671,170 US currency seized from a vehicle rented by Ionita. After the money was seized, Ionita returned to Canada. On December 17,2010 a criminal complaint charging Ionita was filed and a felony warrant was authorized. On December 20, 2010, Ionita filed a claim demanding restitution of the $671,160. The Ninth Circuit held that Ionita met the statutory definition of a fugitive from justice; therefore the Fugitive Disentitlement Statute applied prohibiting him from litigating issues related to his pending criminal case without subjecting himself. The panel agreed with the district court that Ionita satisfied all the elements of the Fugitive Disentitlement Statute and affirmed that the fifth element was satisfied since he deliberately avoided prosecution by declining to reenter the country. The panel determined that the totality of the circumstances showed that Ionita satisfied the fifth element by intentionally declining to return to the United States in order to avoid facing the charges against him. Ionita had previously extensively traveled to California, he declined numerous opportunities to personally appeal at hearings in the civil forfeiture proceedings, and he represented that the bail in the criminal case made it impossible for him to return acknowledging the fact that he remained in Canada to avoid the execution of the warrant. AFFIRMED.

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