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UNITED STATES v. PARCEL OF REAL PROP.

June 28, 1989

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY KNOWN AS 3201 CAUGHEY ROAD, MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP, ERIE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, and BUILDINGS AND IMPROVEMENTS ERECTED THEREON, CONSOLIDATED WITH UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY KNOWN AS 3236 WEST 26TH STREET, MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP, ERIE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, and BUILDINGS AND IMPROVEMENTS ERECTED THEREON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 The United States has brought these forfeiture proceedings pursuant to the Drug Abuse Prevention Act, 21 U.S.C. § 881 et seq., seeking to have two parcels of real property forfeited on the theory that the properties were used to facilitate violations of the federal narcotics laws. See, 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7). Titles to both properties are held by Ronald Thomas and his wife Jeannine, as tenants by the entirety.

 Ronald Thomas was convicted and sentenced by this Court on September 23, 1988, on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine; four counts of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute; one count of using a telephone to facilitate the distribution of cocaine; and one count of failing to report gross receipts from the sale of cocaine on his 1986 federal income tax return.

 Claims to both properties herein have been filed by Ronald and Jeannine Thomas. We previously rejected the claims of their two sons. The claimants do not contest that the United States has met its burden of establishing probable cause to believe that the Caughey Road property was used by Ronald Thomas to store and sell cocaine. They do, however, contest the adequacy of the government's evidence as to the West 26th Street property. Jeannine Thomas also asserts that her interest in both properties is exempted from forfeiture by the innocent owner provision of 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7).

 On May 1, 1989, a non-jury trial was held by this Court in which a full opportunity was given to the claimants to contest the probable cause as to the 26th Street property, and to Jeannine Thomas to establish her entitlement to the innocent owner exemption. Pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 52(a), we now present our findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 I. Probable Cause as to West 26th Street Property

 Findings of Fact

 1. Ronald Thomas was a member of a large scale conspiracy to distribute cocaine, from the Spring of 1983 until January 16, 1987.

 2. The West 26th Street property was purchased by the Thomases on October 31, 1984.

 3. Ronald Thomas operated a used car sales business known as Sterling Motors from the property until the time it was seized.

 4. Joseph Long was employed by Ron Thomas at the car lot during 1985 and 1986 and on occasion he received quantities of cocaine from Thomas as payment for his services.

 5. Thomas regularly stored cocaine at the car lot, used and shared it with others on the premises, and supplied it to others on the premises.

 6. Although Long saw cocaine supplied to others at the car lot, he never saw any money exchanged for cocaine at the lot.

 7. Jeff Connelly received cocaine from Thomas at the car lot and overheard conversations there about purchases.

 8. Sebastian Ambrogio once picked up $ 1,000 cash at the car lot from Thomas, which was to be applied to a $ 10,000 debt for cocaine that Thomas had bought from Patrick DiLoreto.

 9. Joseph Luciano sold a car to Thomas at the car lot, and in exchange got $ 500 "knocked off" his cocaine debt with Thomas.

 10. Ron Thomas testified that he never sold cocaine from his car lot because he was afraid of losing his license.

 11. Thomas did admit, however, that he shared cocaine with others ...


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