United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Government's Interim Motion for
Forfeiture (Record Document 36), seeking forfeiture of
property from Randall and Michael Lord under 18 U.S.C. §
982(a)(1) and 21 U.S.C. § 853. For the reasons contained
in the instant Memorandum Ruling, the Motion is hereby
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Michael Lord and Randall Lord have been convicted under 18
U.S.C. § 371 of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed
money service business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960.
See Record Document 42 (transcript of guilty plea
hearing). Defendant Michael Lord has also been convicted of
participating in a drug conspiracy in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 846. See id. The Court held a sentencing
hearing in the instant action on May 23 and 24, 2017.
See Record Document 68 (minutes of sentencing
hearing). At that hearing, the Court orally imposed a term of
imprisonment for each Defendant in this action, but reserved
a ruling on the matter of criminal forfeiture of property
until a hearing could be held on the matter of forfeiture.
See id. The Court set a hearing on the issue of
forfeiture for June 5, 2017. See id. The Court has
not yet issued a judgment in the instant action.
indictment states that the Government seeks forfeiture of
property from the Defendants under 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1)
and 21 U.S.C. § 853. See Record Document 2 at
17-19, ¶¶ 1-9. Each Defendant agreed in his plea
agreement to forfeit “all interests he owns or over
which he exercises control, directly or indirectly, in any
asset that is subject to forfeiture.” Record Documents
34 and 35 at ¶ E 1. Forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. §
853 is available against “any person convicted of a
violation of this title [Title 21] or title III punishable by
imprisonment for more than one year.” Michael Lord was
convicted of participating in a drug conspiracy in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 846. See Record Document 42.
Thus, forfeiture of property related to the drug conspiracy
is available to the Government with respect to property owned
by Michael Lord that meets the requirements of that section.
before the forfeiture hearing, the Court discovered a
potential issue with the availability of criminal forfeiture
under 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1). More specifically, the
Court noted that 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1) provides for
criminal forfeiture when a person has been “convicted
of an offense in violation of section 1956, 1957, or
1960” of Title 18, but does not specifically provide
for criminal forfeiture when a person has been convicted of
conspiring to commit a violation of one of these
sections. The Government's claim for forfeiture primarily
rests upon this provision, as the Government seeks a money
judgment of more than $2.6 million under this provision
against Defendants for the property “involved in”
or “traceable to” the offense under 18 U.S.C
§ 371 of conspiring to operate an unlicensed money
service business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960.
See Record Documents 36 (the Government's
Interim Motion for Forfeiture of Property) and 63 at 6-7
(table of deposits into bank accounts related to
Defendants' bitcoin exchange business).
6, 2017, the Court issued a Memorandum Order ordering the
Government to brief this issue by June 19, 2017. See
Record Document 74. The Government did not file any response
by June 19, 2017, and the Court has been informed by counsel
for the Government that the Government does not intend to
file any response. Defendants responded on June 26, 2017,
urging the Court to deny the Government's Interim Motion
for Forfeiture as to both the conspiracy to operate an
unlicensed money service business conviction and the drug
conspiracy conviction. See Record Document 78.
forfeiture statutes empower the Government to confiscate
property derived from or used to facilitate criminal
activity.” Honeycutt v. United States, 198
L.Ed.2d 73, 80 (June 5, 2017). As stated in the Court's
previous Memorandum Order, Subsection (a)(1) of 18 U.S.C.
§ 982 states that:
The court, in imposing sentence on a person convicted of an
offense in violation of section 1956, 1957, or 1960 of
this title shall order that the person forfeit to the
United States any property, real or personal, involved in
such offense, or any property traceable to such property
other subsections of this statute provide for forfeiture when
specific crimes are committed. See 18 U.S.C. §
982(a)(3) and (7). Other subsections of 18 U.S.C. §
982(a), however, provide for forfeiture when a defendant has
been convicted of “a violation of” specific
federal criminal statutes “or a conspiracy to
violate” those federal criminal statutes. 18
U.S.C. § 982(a)(2); see also 18 U.S.C. §
982(a)(5), (6), and (8) (emphasis added).
Michael and Randall Lord have pleaded guilty to and been
sentenced to a term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. §
371 for the crime of conspiring to operate an
unlicensed money service business in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1960. The Court's Memorandum Ruling denying
Defendants' Motion to Withdraw their guilty pleas on this
count was partially based on the language of 18 U.S.C. §
1960, as that statute is the underlying criminal statute that
Defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate. See
United States v. Lord, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60508 at
*9-12 (W.D. La. 2017). Reference to that statute was
necessary to resolve the Motion to Withdraw the guilty pleas,
as the Government conceded that its evidence did not show
that Defendants conspired to violate one subsection of 18
U.S.C. § 1960(b)(1), but nonetheless did show that they
had conspired to violate another subsection. See id.
neither Defendant has actually been “convicted of an
offense in violation of section . . . 1960 of [Title
18].” 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1). Conspiracy to commit
a criminal offense is a crime that belongs to a class of
crimes called inchoate crimes, and it is a separate crime
from the underlying offense itself. See Iannelli v.
United States, 420 U.S. 770, 777-779 (1975) (explaining
why conspiracy and the underlying offense are considered
separate offenses and that the Supreme Court has consistently
attributed to Congress “a tacit purpose -- in the
absence of any inconsistent expression -- to maintain a
long-established distinction between offenses essentially
different”). As explained above, the forfeiture statute
upon which the Government relies provides for forfeiture only
when a person is “convicted of an offense in
violation of section 1956, 1957, or 1960 of this
title.” 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1) (emphasis
added). Other subsections of that same statute expressly
provide for forfeiture for commission of certain federal
crimes or conspiracy to commit those crimes,
indicating that if Congress intended to provide for criminal
forfeiture for conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C. §§
1956, 1957, or 1960, it would have expressly done so like it
did for these other crimes. See 18 U.S.C.§
982(a)(2), (5), (6), and (8).
Court finds that reading subsection (a)(1) of 18 U.S.C.
§ 983 to provide for forfeiture for both an underlying
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960 and a conspiracy to
violate that provision under 18 U.S.C. § 371 when other
subsections of 18 U.S.C. § 983(a) expressly provide for
forfeiture for the crime of conspiracy violates the canons of
construction that (1) statutes should be interpreted as a
whole and (2) statutes should be interpreted to avoid
rendering any part of their language superfluous. See
United Sav. Ass'n of Tex. v. Timbers of Inwood Forest
Assocs., 484 U.S. 365, 371 (1988) (“statutory
construction . . . is a holistic endeavor, ” requiring
that statutory provisions be read as part of a whole and not
in isolation); see Corley v. United States, 556 U.S.
303, 314 (2009) (“a statute should be construed so that
effect is given to all its provisions, so that no part will
be inoperative or superfluous, void or insignificant”).
Additionally, all forfeiture ...