995 F.2d 367 (2nd Cir. 1993), 1403, United States v. Amiel

Docket Nº:1403, Docket 93-1040.
Citation:995 F.2d 367
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Hilda AMIEL, Kathryn Amiel, Joanne Amiel, and Sarina Amiel, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:June 09, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 367

995 F.2d 367 (2nd Cir. 1993)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,

v.

Hilda AMIEL, Kathryn Amiel, Joanne Amiel, and Sarina Amiel,

Defendants-Appellants.

No. 1403, Docket 93-1040.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

June 9, 1993

Argued March 31, 1993.

Page 368

Adrian L. DiLuzio, Woodmere, NY, for defendants-appellants.

Dave S. Hattem, Asst. U.S. Atty. for the E.D.N.Y. (Mary Jo White, U.S. Atty., Peter A. Norling and Gary R. Brown, Asst. U.S. Attys., of counsel), for appellee.

Before: OAKES, PIERCE, and PRATT, Circuit Judges.

GEORGE C. PRATT, Circuit Judge:

FACTS AND BACKGROUND

In 1986, the United States began investigating Leon Amiel; his wife, Hilda Amiel; his daughters, Kathryn and Joanne Amiel; and his granddaughter, Sarina Amiel, for possible dealings in counterfeit artworks. Through their family businesses, the Amiels allegedly engaged in a scheme to sell to corrupt art dealers limited-edition prints of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, and Salvador Dali. Leon Amiel allegedly ran the counterfeit-art operation until his death in 1988, after which his wife, daughters, and granddaughter took over.

On July 8, 1991, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Thomas C. Platt, Chief Judge, issued a warrant in rem for the arrest of several properties, some of which were connected with the Amiels. The amended verified complaint in rem alleged that the defendant properties were utilized in or constituted the proceeds of mail fraud, money laundering, transportation of stolen goods, and RICO violations. Among the properties seized were commercial real estate in Manhattan; three residential properties in Rockville Centre, New York; $328,785.80 from a safe-deposit box at Bankers Trust Company; $919,983.86 from Bankers Trust Company accounts; a Shearson Lehman brokerage account; three automobiles; National Westminster Bank accounts; and several prints worth thousands of dollars.

Hilda, Kathryn, Joanne, and Sarina Amiel filed claims to most of the above-listed properties on July 17, 1991, but they failed to answer the in rem complaint. The district court dismissed their claims on October 11, 1991, and entered a default judgment against the defendant properties on October 30, 1991. The Amiels appealed from that judgment.

On February 28, 1992, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Kathryn, Joanne, and Sarina Amiel with conspiracy and mail fraud in connection with the sale of counterfeit prints. A thirty-count superseding indictment was returned on June 19, 1992, charging Hilda, Kathryn, Joanne, and Sarina Amiel with various counts of mail and wire fraud. It alleged that they sold limited-edition reproductions of well-known contemporary artists' works that were not signed, numbered, or authorized by those artists. All four moved to dismiss the superseding indictment on December 4, 1992, claiming that the criminal proceeding should be barred because the value of the properties seized in the civil action was so overwhelmingly disproportionate to the crimes for which they were charged that the forfeiture constituted punishment for purposes of double jeopardy.

On December 21, 1992, the Amiels withdrew their appeal from the civil forfeiture judgment pending Chief Judge Platt's disposition of the double-jeopardy motion. Their stipulation with the government, which was approved by the court, provided that the withdrawal was to be "without prejudice to a reinstatement of the appeal * * * in writing by 30 days after [the district court] rules on defendants' motion to dismiss indictment in U.S.A. v. Amiel * * *. If not thus reinstated, the appeal shall be deemed withdrawn with prejudice."

Chief Judge Platt denied the motion to dismiss, in effect without prejudice, because he granted leave to renew the motion at the "conclusion of the Government's case or of the entire case at trial" on January 6, 1993. 813 F.Supp. 958. All four defendants appealed that order, but Hilda Amiel has since died. A panel of this court stayed the trial pending our disposition of the appeal.

Because we agree with Chief Judge Platt that it would be premature to decide the double-jeopardy issue at this juncture, we affirm.

Page 369

DISCUSSION

  1. Appellate Jurisdiction.

    Since courts of appeals are generally limited to reviewing "final decisions" of the district courts, 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we usually lack the power to review an interlocutory order denying a pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment. See, e.g., United States v. Wallach, 870 F.2d 902 (2d Cir.1989). However, because the double-jeopardy clause protects individuals from...

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