United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JODY A. VANLAANEN, Plaintiff,
CORNERSTONE MORTGAGE LLC, UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYD'S LONDON, ADENIRAN JOSE, and JOHN DOES, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge
Jody A. VanLaanen filed this action against Defendants
Cornerstone Mortgage LLC, Underwriters at Lloyd's London,
Adeniran Jose, and John Does. He alleges Jose violated the
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and
committed wire fraud by impersonating a Cornerstone mortgage
broker and instructing VanLaanen to transfer $50, 307.00 to a
bank account in Los Angeles, California. Jose, proceeding/?ro
se, filed a "notice of motion and motion for
order for transfer of venue." (ECF No. 18.) In his
motion, Jose asserts that the court should transfer venue to
the Central District of California but also challenges
personal jurisdiction. For the foregoing reasons, Jose's
motion will be denied.
April 2016, VanLaanen entered into a real estate contract to
purchase a cottage located in Townsend, Wisconsin. (Am.
Compl. at ¶ 11, ECF No. 1.) VanLaanen entered into the
purchase agreement with the help of Paul Adams, a mortgage
broker employed by Cornerstone Mortgage. (Id.)
VanLaanen and Adams primarily communicated about the cottage
sale through email. (Id. at ¶ 12.) The closing
for the cottage was scheduled for May 23, 2016. (Id.
at ¶ 13.) On May 16, 2016, Adams emailed VanLaanen
forwarding a closing disclosure as well as Homeowners
Insurance information. (Id. at ¶ 14.)
alleges that on May 20, 2016, he received an email from Jose
impersonating Adams at 10:11 a.m., advising VanLaanen to wire
the closing funds for the cottage by 2:00 p.m. that day.
(Id. at ¶ 15.) VanLaanen and Jose engaged in an
email exchange consisting of eleven emails discussing the
transfer of funds. (Id.) Jose advised VanLaanen to
wire $50, 307.00 to a Chase Bank account named "Pelebe
Homes LLC Business." (Id.) The exchange
concluded at 2:04 p.m. when Jose emailed VanLaanen and
confirmed that the closing funds had been received.
23, 2016, VanLaanen met with Adams at Cornerstone to close on
the cottage. (Id. at ¶ 22.) When Adams asked
VanLaanen for the closing funds, VanLaanen responded that he
wired the funds three days earlier at Adams' request.
(Id.) Adams indicated he never requested the funds
and terminated the closing. (Id.) After this
meeting, VanLaanen went to his bank to cancel the wire
transfer. (Id. at ¶ 23.) The bank traced the
transfer to a Chase Bank in Los Angeles, California and
determined Jose opened the Pelebe Homes LLC business account.
(Id. at ¶ 24.) A bank statement from Chase Bank
indicates that after the funds were received, Jose
immediately withdrew them. (Id. at ¶21.)
requests that this court transfer this case to the Central
District of California because venue is improper in this
district. His motion also challenges personal jurisdiction.
"The question of personal jurisdiction, which goes to
the court's power to exercise control over the parties,
is typically decided in advance of venue, which is primarily
a matter of choosing a convenient forum." Leroy v.
Great W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979). As
such, the court will first address Jose's challenge to
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) governs a motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction. Though the plaintiff has
the burden of proving personal jurisdiction, the burden is
not aheavyone. Johnson Worldwide Assoc., Inc. v. Brunton
Co., 12 F.Supp.2d 901, 906 (E.D. Wis. 1998). In
determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, the court
may rely on the complaint, affidavits, deposition testimony,
exhibits, or other evidence in the record. Schimpfv.
Gerald, Inc., 2 F.Supp.2d 1150, 1160 (E.D. Wis. 1998).
The court must draw all inferences from the record in the
plaintiffs favor. PKWare, Inc. v. Meade, 79
F.Supp.2d 1007, 1011 (E.D. Wis. 2000).
federal-question federal court has personal jurisdiction over
the defendant if either federal law or the law of the state
in which the court sits authorizes service of process to that
defendant." Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC v.
Anesthesia Assocs., 623 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2010)
(citing Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff
& Co., Ltd., 484 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1987)). While RICO
authorizes nationwide service of process, it is not
automatic. 18 U.S.C. § 1965(b). Instead, VanLaanen must
demonstrate that "the ends of justice require that other
parties residing in any other district be brought before the
court." Id. Accordingly, VanLaanen must show
that Jose could be subject to jurisdiction of the Wisconsin
courts. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A). This
requires a traditional minimum contacts analysis.
with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in
order for a State to bind a nonresident defendant to a
judgment of its courts, a nonresident must have "certain
minimum contacts . . . such that the maintenance of the suit
does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'" Int'l ShoeCo. v.
Washington, 326U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting
Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).
Personal jurisdiction can be general or specific. VanLaanen
does not assert a claim of general jurisdiction, rather, his
theory is premised upon specific jurisdiction. Specific
jurisdiction is appropriate when the defendant's
"suit-related conduct" creates a substantial
connection with the forum state. Advanced Tactical
Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 751
F.3d 796, 801 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Walden v.
Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014)). It is
unconstitutional to force a defendant to appear in a distant
court unless he has done something that makes him
"reasonably anticipate being haled into court
there." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471
U.S. 462, 474 (1985) (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp.
v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 295 (1980)).
argues he is not subject to specific jurisdiction because he
has no connections to Wisconsin. He is a citizen of
California and has not engaged in any business in Wisconsin.
Yet, VanLaanen's claims against Jose involve intentional,
allegedly tortious acts that were specifically targeted at
Wisconsin. VanLaanen alleges that Jose made intentional
contact with him in Wisconsin. He asserts that Jose
intentionally misrepresented facts about his association with
Cornerstone in a scheme to defraud and deprive VanLaanen of
the closing funds intended to purchase a cottage. Jose and
VanLaanen engaged in an email exchange regarding the transfer
of funds to begin the closing process. As a result of
Jose's impersonation of Adams, VanLaanen transferred $50,
307.00 to an account at a Chase Bank located in Los Angeles,
California. After VanLaanen transferred the money, Jose
immediately withdrew the funds from the account.
VanLaanen's allegations demonstrate that Jose expressly
aimed his conduct at Wisconsin through his intentional
conduct with VanLaanen, a Wisconsin citizen. His allegations
further evince that Jose knew that the effects of his actions
would be felt in Wisconsin. Thus, Jose's
"suit-related conduct" subjects him to personal
jurisdiction in Wisconsin.
also asserts that venue is improper and that the case should
be transferred to the Central District of California. Under
28 U.S.C. § 1391, venue is proper in:
(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all
defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district
in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property
that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a
judicial district in which any defendant may ...