Taft partner Andi Metzel and of counsel Nadine McSpadden successfully argued for reversal of a forfeiture order in an appeal against the State of Indiana.
Taft client Olympic Financial Group Inc. is a money services business that, as part of its lawful operations, transfers large sums of money overseas. Olympic employs couriers in the United States to transfer cash from different parts of the country to Olympic headquarters in Minnesota.
In April 2021, two Olympic couriers were lawfully transporting $700,000 in cash from Vermont to Minnesota when they were pulled over by a law enforcement officer in Jasper County, Ind. Although there was no indication that any criminal activity was afoot and the state never charged anyone with a crime, the state seized the cash. As soon as Taft learned about the incident, it reached out to the authorities to alert them that Olympic is the owner of the money.
The state filed a motion to turn the cash over to the federal government for forfeiture proceedings without notifying the trial court of Olympic’s claimed interest in the money. The trial court granted the motion the same day without holding a hearing and later denied Olympic’s motion to reconsider.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in full, finding there was no evidence of a nexus between the cash and criminal activity and therefore no probable cause for the turnover order. The court gave little weight to the state’s argument that the cash was later found to have some drug residue, highlighting studies showing that most cash in circulation has drug residue on it. The residue alone, therefore, was insufficient to show a nexus to criminal activity.
The state had already turned the money over to the federal government before the appellate process had begun. But the court ordered the state to return Olympic’s money immediately, finding it would not be fair to require Olympic to undertake the process of retrieving its money from the federal government under these circumstances.
The Taft team, which included Cincinnati partner Jeanne Cors, secured a major win for Olympic and obtained an appellate opinion with huge implications for the civil liberties of all Indiana residents.
To read the full opinion, click here.
Metzel is an experienced litigator focusing her practice on defense of companies and individuals in complex business litigation, corporate governance, land use, white-collar, fraud, RICO, and product liability matters in state and federal courts. She has worked with lawyers throughout the United States and has led and worked on cooperative teams with other firms providing high-stakes defense in numerous industries.
McSpadden focuses primarily on defending clients in complex commercial litigation, both at the trial and appellate level. She has significant experience in trial advocacy as well as appellate advocacy, having served as the senior judicial clerk for the Hon. John G. Baker for the Indiana Court of Appeals prior to joining Taft.