105 F.3d 833 (2nd Cir. 1997), 534, United States v. Ribadeneira
|Docket Nº:||534, Docket 96-1299.|
|Citation:||105 F.3d 833|
|Party Name:||UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Jose RIBADENEIRA, Albio Alzate, Cambiaria C & F Casa De Cambio C.A., Defendants, Banco Popular, Filanbanco, Gregorio Ormaza, Guislain Wattel, Juan Jose Avellan, Francelana, S.A., Maria Cordero, Gustavo Vallejo Perez, Fernando Pena, Simon Coral, Secretej CIA. LTDA., Carlos Ariba and Stella Barrera, Petitioners-|
|Case Date:||January 30, 1997|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit|
Argued Nov. 8, 1996.
Stuart Holtzman, New York City (Holtzman & Taikeff, of counsel), for Petitioners-Appellants.
Sharon Cohen Levin, Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York City (Mary Jo White, United States Attorney, Guy Petrillo, Assistant United States Attorney, of counsel), for Appellee.
Martin J. Auerbach, New York City, for Superintendent of the Banks of Ecuador.
Before OAKES, LEVAL and PARKER, Circuit Judges.
Appellants-Petitioners Banco Popular, et al. ("Appellants"), appeal from the final order entered April 1, 1996, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Leonard B. Sand, Judge, dismissing their petitions to modify a Final Order of Forfeiture. Judge Sand dismissed the petitions on the ground that Appellants lacked standing to contest the Order of Forfeiture. United States v. Ribadeneira, 920 F.Supp. 553 (S.D.N.Y.1996). Appellants assert that this dismissal was error because they have a legal interest in certain funds forfeited to the United States which grants them standing under 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6)(B). We disagree, and therefore affirm.
On March 12, 1991, Jose Ribadeneira and Albio Alzate were arrested and charged with laundering approximately $30 million through Cambiaria C & F ("C & F"), an Ecuadorian banking institution and exchange house. 1 Ribadeneira and Alzate ultimately pled guilty to conspiracy and money laundering, and, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 982, agreed to the criminal forfeiture of certain assets, including several C & F accounts. The Final Order of Forfeiture was entered March 5, 1993, resulting in the forfeiture of approximately $2.1 million to the United States.
Appellants were businesses based in Quito, Ecuador, which occasionally converted Ecuadorian sucres into U.S. dollars by purchasing checks drawn on C & F accounts in the United States. Once the assets in those accounts were frozen by reason of the money laundering activities of Ribadeneira and Alzate, Appellants were left unable to redeem U.S. dollar checks which they had purchased. On December 8, 1995, they petitioned under 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(2) to modify the Final Order of Forfeiture and recover their alleged interest in the seized accounts. On April 1, 1996, the district court held that Appellants, as general creditors without an identifiable legal interest in the particular assets subject to forfeiture, lacked standing to contest the Final Order of Forfeiture, and dismissed their petition. Because they are questions of law, we review de novo both a district court's determination that a party lacks standing, Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 89 F.3d 128, 132 (2nd Cir.1996), and that court's interpretation of a statute, United States v. Ripinsky, 20 F.3d 359, 361 (9th Cir.1994).
Title 21 U.S.C. § 853, sets forth the procedure by which third parties seeking to recover an alleged interest in forfeited property may obtain judicial resolution of their claim. The provision granting standing to parties seeking to modify a Final Order of Forfeiture to exclude certain properties from that Order states:
Any person, other than the defendant, asserting a legal interest in property which has been ordered forfeited to the United States pursuant to this section may ... petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of this alleged interest in the property. The hearing shall be held before the court alone, without a jury....
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