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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This case concerns whether the FBI, after seizing cash from Anthony Robinson during a narcotics investigation, satisfied the notice requirements of due process before declaring the cash to be administratively forfeited. The underlying facts of the seizure and forfeiture are not in dispute. On Nov. 1, 1998, Houston police effected a traffic stop of Robinson at the request of the FBI, who were investigating Robinson as part of a multiparty drug investigation. Inside Robinson’s car, officers discovered large sums of cash in a Crown Royal bag under the driver’s seat, in the glove compartment and in a small black suitcase. FBI agents seized the money but released Robinson. Robinson provided the agents with a home address of 18062 Forest Cedar, Houston, Texas, which was also on his driver’s license, and a business address of 12719C Bissonnet. The FBI subsequently initiated administrative forfeiture proceedings for $188,980. Almost eight months after the seizure, the FBI sent a certified letter postmarked June 22, 1999 to Robinson’s home address, informing him of the seizure and the intent to forfeit. The letter provided information about a claimant’s right to contest the seizure by filing a claim of ownership and the right to file a petition for remission or mitigation of the forfeiture. The letter was returned on Dec. 1, 1999, marked “UNCLAIMED.” The FBI then searched its ChoicePoint database and discovered four additional addresses associated with Robinson’s name and Social Security Number. Within one week of the return of the unclaimed letter, four similar certified letters notifying Robinson of the seizure and forfeiture were sent to the alternate addresses. One of the letters was sent to Robinson’s business address. Each letter was returned marked “UNCLAIMED,” “ATTEMPTED, NOT KNOWN,” or “MOVED, LEFT NO ADDRESS.” A few months later, the FBI searched its ChoicePoint database once again and discovered two more addresses linked to Robinson. The FBI mailed to these addresses certified letters. The letters were returned marked “UNCLAIMED” and “MOVED, LEFT NO ADDRESS.” The FBI also published public notice of the seizure and forfeiture for three successive weeks on three different occasions in The New York Times. When no one filed a claim of ownership or a petition for remission or mitigation, the FBI declared the cash to be administratively forfeited on June 15, 2000. Meanwhile, Robinson was initially indicted along with two co-defendants on May 8, 2000 for drug offenses. A jury found Robinson guilty on four counts, and the district court sentenced him to concurrent terms of 235 months in prison. This court affirmed the conviction on direct appeal. On June 25, 2003, Robinson filed a pro se motion in district court for return of property. Robinson argued that the money was seized during an illegal search and seizure, that he was not given notice of the forfeiture as required by 19 U.S.C. �1607, that the delay prior to the government’s initial notice deprived him of due process and that the criminal judgment did not order any property forfeited. The government filed a response, asserting that it should be granted summary judgment because its attempts to notify Robinson about the forfeiture satisfied due process. The government attached to its motion an affidavit from an FBI paralegal specialist in the Forfeiture and Seized Property Unit and copies of the certified letters and newspaper publications discussed above. Robinson filed a reply in which he argued that the government’s first notice was sent almost eight months after the seizure, constituting an unreasonable delay in violation of due process. He also asserted that he had lived at the home address on Forest Cedar for four months after the seizure before moving to 7810 Pouter. He argued that he had spoken to an FBI agent, who advised him that he had to get an attorney and file a claim for the money. His attorney allegedly then called the FBI, learned the amount of money involved and was told that a notice would be sent to Robinson. Robinson further argued that the FBI did not send a notice to his business address until 13 months after the seizure, that delivery was unreasonably attempted on Christmas Day, and that the notice published in The New York Times was unreasonable because he lives in Houston. The district court treated Robinson’s motion as a civil complaint for equitable relief because no criminal charges were pending, and it granted summary judgment to the government. The court held that the government’s efforts to contact Robinson about the forfeiture, evidenced by the seven certified letters that were returned unclaimed, and its publishing of notice in The New York Times, which it found was a newspaper of general distribution within the district, were reasonably calculated to give Robinson notice and satisfied due process. The court noted that letters had been sent to three addresses at which Robinson acknowledged he had lived and done business, i.e., the addresses on Forest Cedar, Bissonnet, and Pouter. With respect to the delay between the seizure on Nov. 1, 1998 and the government’s first letter in June 1999, the court first noted that Robinson supported his argument that the delay was unreasonable by relying on cases involving delays by the government in initiating civil or criminal forfeiture proceedings. Because the forfeiture proceeding in this case was administrative, not judicial, the court opined that it was unclear whether the cases cited by Robinson were applicable. The court then noted that the cases cited by Robinson used a four-part balancing test for determining an unreasonable delay, analyzing 1. the length of the delay, 2. the reason for the delay, 3. the claimant’s assertion of his rights, and 4. prejudice to the claimant. The district court held that, even assuming the applicability of this test, the delay in this case was not unreasonable. The court held that the eight-month delay was reasonable because Robinson had not sought the return of his funds or otherwise contested the forfeiture during the criminal proceeding. Robinson also failed to show that the delay caused him any prejudice. In addition, the delay was justified because the seizure was made during the course of a lengthy criminal investigation and the Supreme Court has indicated that pending criminal proceedings may present justification for a delay in instituting civil forfeiture proceedings. The court concluded that there was no showing that the government was lax in its investigation or that the subsequent criminal charges against Robinson were not pursued with reasonable diligence. Robinson filed a timely notice of appeal. HOLDING:Affirmed. Robinson argues that his due process rights were violated because the government waited over seven months before attempting to notify him about the forfeiture. In United States v. $8,850 in U.S. Currency, 461 U.S. 555 (1983), the Supreme Court addressed whether an 18-month delay in the government’s filing a civil forfeiture proceeding violated due process, and held that the proper analysis of the delay required consideration of four factors: 1. length of the delay, 2. the reason for the delay, 3. the defendant’s assertion of her rights and 4. prejudice to the defendant. Whether the delay in the government’s first notice to Robinson was unjustified presents a close question in light of this court’s decision in United States v. $23,407.69 in U.S. Currency, 715 F.2d 162 (5th Cir. 1983). There, this Court was critical of the government for failing to offer an explanation for the six-month delay from the seizure to the first notice. Here, the government waited nearly eight months from the Nov. 1, 1998 seizure before it attempted to send its first notice to Robinson. In light of the circumstances as a whole, the court affirms the district court’s grant of summary judgment upholding the forfeiture. in addition to the ongoing nature of the criminal investigation, Robinson had actual knowledge of the government’s intent to forfeit the money long before the first attempt at mail notice. the nearly eight-month total delay from the seizure to the first written notice was not unjustifiably lengthy and comports with the fairness required of due process. The district court did not err in denying the motion for return of property on grounds of delay in notice. Robinson argues that the government’s attempts at written notice were inadequate because of an inordinate delay between the various attempts and because the government never attempted to resend notice to his home or business addresses. Under all the circumstances, the government’s written notice was reasonably calculated to provide Robinson with notice, and there was no due process violation. Although publication in the Houston Chronicle would have been more likely to provide him with notice, the government’s decision to publish in The New York Times did not violate the statutory publication requirements because it must publish only in a newspaper of general circulation. Robinson argues that because he was indicted on May 8, 2000, just over a month before the cash was forfeited on June 15, 2000, the government knew that he would soon be in custody and would have a lawyer with whom it could communicate and that there would be no ambiguity about how to notify him. Robinson asserts that instead of waiting to communicate with his attorney, the government forfeited the money. He argues that the government was not free to disregard the fact that it would soon be able to provide him with actual notice of the forfeiture once he was in custody. The court rejects this argument, noting that the government began its attempts to notify Robinson long before his indictment, and the government made additional attempts to notify Robinson after the first and second attempts at written notice were returned. OPINION:Clement, J.; Higginbotham, Wiener and Clement, JJ.

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