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UNITED STATES v. ONE 1981 DATSUN 280ZX

April 22, 1983

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ONE 1981 DATSUN 280ZX



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

 GILES, District Judge.

 This case decides the fate of a 1981 Datsun 280ZX sports car which was seized by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") on March 15, 1982 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The government has instituted a complaint in forfeiture under the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801, 881(a) (1976). The car was allegedly used by Joseph Esposito, Jr. ("Esposito") to facilitate the attempted purchase of a controlled substance, phenyl-2-propanone ("P2P"). His father, Joseph Esposito, Sr. ("claimant"), contests the government's right to the car, claiming to be the innocent owner. An evidentiary hearing was held on February 17, 1982. The following constitutes my findings of fact and conclusions of law under Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Defendant car is a black 1981 Datsun 280ZX with a tan interior and a gold pinstripe. It is a turbo-charged sports car, capable of attaining a speed of 145 miles per hour. The car was purchased for $18,904.00 and has a present value of approximately $15,400.00.

 2. Esposito is 38 years old and resides at 2336 South Hemberger Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father is a 72 year old retiree who resides at 1712 McClellan Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The claimant has a heart condition.

 3. The certificate of title for the Datsun lists the owner as Joseph Esposito, 1712 McClellan Street. There is no designation "Sr." or "Jr." on the title. The policy of insurance on the car names the insured in the same manner as the certificate of title.

 4. The Datsun was purchased from Estate Datsun on September 3, 1981. Both Esposito and the claimant were present during the negotiations, which commenced in August. Esposito conducted most of the negotiations and actually selected the car, its color, equipment and features. The order form was signed by Esposito, but once again listed Joseph Esposito without the designation of "Sr." or "Jr." Esposito paid most of the purchase price in cash which was brought to Estate Datsun in a brown paper bag.

 6. On September 17, 1981, claimant purchased a 1979 Oldsmobile for $6,610.00 also from Estate Datsun. Claimant and his wife each receive approximately $400.00 per month from social security. Their only other income is $500.00 per month in rent from a property located at 1846 South McKeon Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 7. The Datsun was kept at the claimant's home and was driven at times by different family members. However, the claimant has never driven the car.

 8. Esposito has his own set of keys to the Datsun and it is referred to by his family members as "Joey's car." Esposito did not need permission to use the car -- he could drive it at any time.

 9. Pursuant to an on-going investigation, a DEA agent, posing as a chemical broker, met with Esposito in early March to discuss the sale of a quantity of P2P. On March 14, 1982, Esposito and Agent Miller met to discuss the terms of the deal. Esposito agreed to buy five gallons of P2P for $30,000 the next day. He remarked at that time that selling methamphetamine had been very lucrative, noting that he had bought everyone in his family a car, including "his" Datsun 280ZX.

 10. On March 15, 1982, they met at the Sheraton Hotel in King of Prussia. Agent Miller entered the Datsun, wanting to see the money with which Esposito intended to purchase the P2P. Seeing a large quantity of $100 bills, Miller asked Esposito to drive him to his car so they could consummate the sale. Sometime after Miller alighted from the Datsun, other vehicles containing agents attempted to surround ...


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