Court Allows Wife of Criminal Defendant to Amend Challenge to Forfeiture of Allegedly Commingled Assets on Due Process Grounds
In United States v. Daugerdas, the Court (Walker, Lynch, Chin) offered a lifeline to the wife of a defendant convicted of tax fraud, who sought to assert a third-party interest in funds that the Second Circuit had previously determined were forfeitable to the government as proceeds of the defendant’s crimes. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that petitioner Eleanor Daugerdas failed to state a claim that she was entitled to retain funds that her husband, defendant Paul Daugerdas, had gratuitously transferred to her. She sought to argue that the tainted funds had been commingled with legitimately earned funds prior to their transfer and therefore could not easily be traced back to Paul’s crimes. But the question of whether the seized funds arose from Paul’s criminal activity had been decided in the affirmative by the district court as part of Paul’s sentencing. As a result, the district court held that Eleanor could not relitigate the issue of whether those funds should be characterized not as criminal proceeds but as substitute assets, which would require the government to seek forfeiture of other property belonging to Paul.