United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. MARIANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Introduction and Procedural History
before the Court is the United States' Motion for Default
Judgment as to Count III (Doc. 25) of the Complaint (Doc. 1).
For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the
United States' motion.
19, 2016, Plaintiff, the United States of America, filed a
Complaint naming as Defendants Christian F. Santana, Oriza
Dotel, Christian L. Santana, the Pennsylvania Department of
Revenue, the Municipal Authority of Hazle Township, and
Dentalcrafts Masters, LLC. (Doc. 1). The civil action was
filed "to collect the federal income tax assessments
made against Christian F. Santana and Oriza Dotel and the
civil penalty assessments made against Christian F. Santana;
to obtain a judicial determination that Christian L. Santana
is the nominee, alter ego, or transferee of Christian F.
Santana; and to enforce the tax liens of the United States
against real property located at 1024 Peace Street, Hazle
Township, Pennsylvania 18202 (the 'Real
Property')." (Doc. 1, at2). The Complaint contains three
counts: Reduce Federal Income Tax Assessments to Judgment
(Count I); Reduce Civil Penalty Assessments to Judgment
(Count II); and Foreclosure of the Federal Tax Liens Against
the Real Property (Count III). (See generally, Doc.
record reflects that summons were returned executed as to
each defendant, with the exception of the Pennsylvania
Department of Revenue (Docs. 5-9), but no attorney has
entered an appearance on behalf of any defendant nor has any
defendant filed a pleading or performed any other action to
otherwise defend the case. Thus, on November 1, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a Request to Enter Default Pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) against Christian F. Santana, Oriza Dotel,
Christian L. Santana, and Dentalcrafts Masters, LLC (Doc.
10). The Clerk of Court entered default against these
defendants on November 14, 2016. (Doc. 11).
Clerk of Court having entered default, the United States
filed a Motion for Default Judgment as to Counts I and II
(Doc. 13) on February 15, 2017 pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(b)(2). The following month, the United States filed a
Motion for Default Judgment Against Defendant Dentalcrafts
Masters, LLC, (Doc. 15). The Court granted both motions on
April 26, 2017 (see Docs. 20-24).
United States subsequently filed the Motion for Default
Judgment as to Count III (Doc. 25) on August 1, 2017, which
is presently before this Court.
Standard of Review
to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[w]hen a party
against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has
failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is
shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the
party's default". Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Upon the
party's request, the clerk of court may then enter
default judgment, but only if the claim is for a sum certain
or one that can be made certain by computation, the defendant
has made no appearance, and the defendant is not a minor or
incompetent. Id. at 55(b)(1). In all other cases,
the party seeking a default judgment must make an application
to the court. Id. at 55(b)(2).
the entry of default judgment is "left primarily to the
discretion of the district court", the discretion is not
limitless given that cases should "be disposed of on the
merits whenever practicable." Hritz v. Woma
Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180-1181 (3d Cir. 1984).
"Where a court enters a default judgment, 'the
factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating
to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.'"
DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 165 n. 6
(quoting Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142,
1149 (3d Cir. 1990)).
Statement of Facts as Set Forth by Plaintiff
III of the United States' Complaint, entitled Foreclosure
of the Federal Tax Liens Against the Real Property, alleges
that by deed dated September 6, 2012, Christian F. Santana
and Oriza Dotel ("the Taxpayers"), husband and
wife, acquired the real property known as 1024 Peace Street,
Hazle Township, PA. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 29). The Taxpayers
thereafter conveyed the Real Property to Christian L.
Santana, the Taxpayers' son, for no consideration by deed
dated September 12, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 30). The
United States asserts that "Christian L. Santana
acquired his interest and continues to hold his interest in
the Real Property as a nominee, transferee, or alter ego of
the Taxpayers, Christian F. Santana and Oriza Dotel, for the
purpose of assisting his parents in evading the collection of
their Federal tax liabilities" and that "[d]espite
the purported transfer of the Real Property to Christian L.
Santana, the Taxpayers retained possession of the Real
Property and continue to reside at the Real Property."
(Id. at ¶¶ 31, 32). Therefore,
"[b]ecause Defendant Christian L. Santana acquired bare
legal title to the Real Property solely as the nominee,
transferee, or alter ego of the Taxpayers, the Taxpayers are
the true and beneficial owners of the Real Property."
(Id. at ¶ 33).
reason of the tax assessments described in Counts I and II of
the Complaint, tax liens in favor of the United States arose
as of the dates of those assessments pursuant to Internal
Revenue Code §§ 6321 and 6322 in the amounts of the
assessments, plus all statutory additions to tax accruing
thereon under law. The Complaint alleges that the federal tax
liens attached to all property and rights to property then
owned or thereafter acquired by the Taxpayers, including the
Real Property belonging to the Taxpayers that is currently
titled in the name of Christian L. Santana. (Doc. 1, at
of the federal tax liens for assessments for unpaid federal
income taxes against Christian F. Santana and Oriza Dotel,
set forth in Count I of the Complaint, and for assessments of
penalties under 26 U.S.C. § 6672 against Christian F.
Santana in Count II, were filed June 19, 2012, December 16,
2014, April 14, 2015, and October 14, 2015 with the
Prothonotary of Luzerne County in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
and the notices of these federal tax liens for assessments
were recorded against Defendant Christian L. Santana as