Stefan Cassella of Asset Forfeiture Law, LLC summarises a recent case in which the Government’s attempts and queries to seize the alleged criminal funds of a Defendant were met with ‘silence’ – the Defendant refused to discuss them, saying requiring him to respond in greater detail would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Deadline for Commencing Administrative Forfeiture

Court denies reconsideration of dismissal of claim for failure to response to special interrogatories; to merit reconsideration, claimant must do more than respond with information that was in his possession all along.

Special Interrogatories / Fifth Amendment Claimant’s refusal to respond to the Government’s special interrogatories, other than to state that he is the owner of the defendant funds, frustrates the Government’s ability to test the veracity of his ownership claim, and is grounds for the dismissal of it.

Claimant who gives a partial answer to a special interrogatory waives any Fifth Amendment right he may have had to avoid self-incrimination.


United States v. $295,726.42 in Account Funds Seized, 2018 WL 295500 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 2018). C.D. Cal. *


The Government filed a civil forfeiture action against the funds in Defendant’s brokerage account, alleging that the funds were the proceeds of the investment fraud scheme for which Defendant had been convicted in a related criminal case.

The Government also served Defendant with special interrogatories pursuant to Rule G(6), requesting that Defendant set forth the source of the funds and other information regarding the time and manner in which he acquired them.

Defendant responded to the special interrogatories by stating only that he was the owner of the account. He declined to identify the sources of the funds or to give the names of the persons who provided the funds to him. After repeated attempts to have Defendant supplement his responses, the Government moved to dismiss his claim pursuant to Rule G(8)(c).

The court agreed with the Government that the special interrogatories were relevant to Defendant’s standing to contest the forfeiture, and that his responses were insufficient. It was noteworthy, the court said, that Defendant had not even mentioned the witnesses who testified at his criminal trial that they had invested money with him.

Defendant’s assertion of his ownership of the funds without providing the circumstances under which he obtained them, the court concluded, “frustrated the Government’s attempts to test the veracity of his claim of ownership,” and was grounds for granting the motion to dismiss.

Defendant argued that requiring him to respond to the special interrogatories in greater detail would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but the court held that Defendant waived that right when he gave a partial answer to the interrogatories.

So the court granted the motion to dismiss the claim, but delayed the effective date of the order to give Defendant 30 more days to provide a complete response to the special interrogatories. SDC

Stefan Cassella, Asset Forfeiture Law, LLC

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