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UNITED STATES v. PLYMOUTH COUPE

January 25, 1950

UNITED STATES
v.
PLYMOUTH COUPE (1941) SERIAL NUMBER 15051526, etc



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

The United States of America, pursuant to the provisions of 26 U.S.C.A. § 3116, instituted a libel proceeding against a 1941 Plymouth Coupe automobile, Serial No. 15051526.

It is alleged that said motor vehicle was used by one Rocco DeBonis in violation of the Internal Revenue laws, with intent to defraud the United States of America.

 Rocco DeBonis entered a plea of nolo contendere at Criminal Action No. E-4944 to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue laws. 18 U.S.C.A. § 88 (revised Sec. 371).

 The plea of nolo contendere entered by Rocco DeBonis cannot be considered in disposing of the issues. Such a plea has the same effect as a plea of guilty as it relates only to the criminal case. It is a confession only for the purpose of the criminal prosecution and does not bind the defendant in a civil action for the same wrong. Berlin v. United States, 3 Cir., 14 F.2d 497; United States v. Toner et al., D.C., 77 F.Supp. 908.

 The motor vehicle was used by Rocco DeBonis to transport ingredients and materials that were necessary for the manufacture and production of the alcoholic beverages. This activity occurred at one time or the other during the period from October 1, 1947 to February 12, 1948.

 During this time Amelia Theresa Vince, a daughter, was the owner of the motor vehicle. Title was held from November, 1944 until April, 1948. Title was transferred to Anthony DeBonis in April of 1948. He was the owner when the car was seized by Federal Revenue Agents on May 19, 1948, and he is the present owner and claimant.

 The motor vehicle was seized on premises occupied by Rocco DeBonis and at that time it was not being used for any unlawful purpose. No legal process had been issued which authorized the seizure. The government agents knew of the car's whereabouts through investigation of the activities of Rocco DeBonis.

 26 U.S.C.A. § 3116 provides, inter alia, for the forfeiture of property where it is used or maintained to be used in violation of the Internal Revenue laws. It is all inclusive. No exception is made in the kind of property included therein nor is there any limitation placed on the manner of the use. It is unnecessary to catalogue or detail the numerous ways and means an automobile or other property may be used or intended to be used in or about a violation of these laws and be subjected to forfeiture. United States v. One 1941 Buick Coach Automobile, D.C., 85 F.Supp. 402.

 That it was the intent of Congress to subject any property used or intended to be used in violation of the Internal Revenue laws to forfeiture, appears clear from the wording of 26 U.S.C.A. § 3116. United States v. 3935 Cases of Distilled Spirits, D.C., 55 F.Supp. 84; United States v. One Pontiac Sedan Automobile et al., D.C., 56 F.Supp. 929; United States v. Windle, 8 Cir., 158 F.2d 196; One 1941 Buick Sedan et al. v. United States, 10 Cir., 158 F.2d 445; Kent v. United States, 5 Cir., 157 F.2d 1.

 The statute dealing with forfeitures and seizures of property used or intended for use in violating the Internal Revenue laws was intended to aid enforcement of revenue laws relating to distilled spirits by providing for forfeiture in any case of violation of those laws. The statute relating to forfeiture is wholly preventive and remedial, and is not a criminal statute. Therefore, it should not be construed with great strictness in favor of one seeking to avoid forfeiture of property thereunder. United States v. Windle, supra.

 Where federal officers improperly obtain evidence through an illegal search or seizure, it cannot be used in a criminal proceeding. However, the United States may adopt the illegal seizure for the purposes of property forfeiture obtained by such seizure, with the same effect as if it had been originally seized through duly constituted authority. United States v. Eight Boxes, etc., 2 Cir., 105 F.2d 896; Dodge v. United States, 272 U.S. 530, 47 S. Ct. 191, 71 L. Ed. 392; United States v. One Ford Coupe Automobile, 272 U.S. 321, 47 S. Ct. 154, 71 L. Ed. 279, 47 A.L.R. 1025; United States v. Dodge Truck, D.C., 23 F.Supp. 582.

 I, therefore, conclude that any illegality in the act of seizure by the Revenue Agent would not defeat forfeiture.

 The burden of proof is upon the government to show the existence of every fact which is an element of a proceeding for forfeiture as alleged in the information of the libel, Therefore, it is encumbent upon the government in the instant case to affirmatively show that the motor vehicle seized was used in violation of the Internal Revenue laws or regulations prescribed ...


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