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Martov v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 17, 2019

Gheorgui Martov, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Defendant-Appellee.

          Submitted May 9, 2019 [*]

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. l:18-cv-1211 - Ronald A. Guzman, Judge.

          Before Flaum, Hamilton, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         The government arrested Gheorgui Martov for wire fraud and seized several items of his personal property including a watch, $4, 035 in cash, a car, and nine firearms.

         In exchange for Martov's guilty plea, the government agreed not to pursue criminal forfeiture. But the government never agreed to forgo administrative forfeiture proceedings, which it had already initiated by sending notice to Martov and his attorney. Martov responded to the government's notice of administrative forfeiture by filing claims for the car and guns. The government denied both claims and declared the property forfeited.

         Martov then brought this action in the district court, seeking the return of the property. The district court denied relief, and we now affirm, as Martov has failed to advance any meritorious arguments. In doing so, however, we note our reservations with the procedural path that the government took in executing the forfeiture.

         I

         A

         Martov participated in a wire fraud scheme in which he collected fraudulently obtained debit card numbers and personal identification numbers and then distributed them to others who used the information to make cash withdrawals from ATMs. The conduct cost the victims approximately $1.2 million. The government eventually caught on, and a grand jury indicted Martov on 22 counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, four counts of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § l956(a)(2)(B)(i), and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) and obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519. The grand jury also advanced two criminal forfeiture allegations totaling $250, 000.

         When FBI agents arrested Martov on March 24, 2014, they seized a $25, 000 watch, $4, 035 cash, and a 2008 Mercedes-Benz. The next day, when executing a search warrant at Martov's home, the agents found and seized nine firearms.

         Martov eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud. Under the plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss the criminal forfeiture allegations (which it did) but reserved the option to pursue "any administrative or judicial civil claim." The district court sentenced Martov to seven years' imprisonment.

         B

         Separate and apart from Martov's criminal proceeding, the government initiated an administrative forfeiture proceeding for the property that it seized during Martov's arrest and the search of his home. The applicable statute, 18 U.S.C. § 983, required the government to notify Martov of any forfeiture proceedings within 60 days from the seizures, see id. ยง 983(a)(1)(A)(i), meaning that it had until May 23, 2014 to notify Martov of forfeiture proceedings for ...


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