Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Walked: Reversing Denial of Government Motion for Forfeiture in Money Laundering Case

 In United States v. Walked, No. 18-11951 (Aug. 11, 2020) (Martin, Grant, Lagoa), the Court reversed the denial of the government’s forfeiture motion.

 The Court held that, if a defendant is convicted of a money laundering scheme that caused no financial harm to an innocently involved bank, a forfeiture order is still mandatory.  Applying the mandatory forfeiture statute in 18 U.S.C. 982(a)(1), the Court concluded that there was property “involved in” the scheme.  The Court rejected the defendant’s arguments that laundered money is not “property” under the statute, and that laundered money could not be used to calculate his forfeiture obligation because the money was returned to the bank as part of the scheme.  Finally, the Court held that the district court erred by holding that the Eighth Amendment imposed a $10,000 per transaction ceiling, and the Court remanded for the district court to consider whether a $10 million forfeiture award violated the Eighth Amendment.

 Judge Lagoa concurred in part and dissented in part.  She disagreed with a portion of the majority opinion suggesting that the government was entitled to substitute asset forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 853(p), as the government had not sought forfeiture under that statute.  And because the district court had not yet made factual findings on the Eighth Amendment issue, she would not opine on whether a $10,000 per transaction maximum was excessive.