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‘Symbolic’ $4.6B punishment against cartel that murdered Americans takes creative legal turn to become reality

todayMay 30, 2024 3

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A $4.64 billion punishment for a Mexican cartel’s massacre of American women and children was considered symbolic.The families of the victims, who ranged from an 8-month-old baby to a 43-year-old mom, were never expected to see a dime. But a law firm representing the families, Motley Rice Law Firm, inundated federal courts with over 1,200 claims against U.S. law enforcement-seized cash and assets during operations against Mexican drug traffickers, Bloomberg Law first reported.Lawyers were slowly making their way to fulfilling the $4.64 billion goal with individual claims ranging from a couple of thousand dollars to millions, but the federal prosecutor’s office in New York challenged the law firm’s legal maneuvers. MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PROMISES TO TAKE ON THE CARTELS WHO ARE ALREADY FIGHTING BACKThe Juarez Cartel ambushed three mothers and 14 children, all U.S. citizens, in a November 2019 blitz in Sierra Alta in Sonora, Mexico.Cartel members blasted the Americans’ cars with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. JUAREZ CARTEL ORDERED TO PAY OVER $4B FOR DEATHS OF AMERICAN MOMS, KIDSA mom and her four children survived the barrage of bullets, but their vehicle was intentionally torched, and all five victims died in the fire. In total, three women and six children died. A federal lawsuit was filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act on behalf of the victims’ families in North Dakota, where most of the victims lived. The judge ultimately awarded the plaintiffs $4.64 billion after a four-day bench trial in June 2022, according to court documents. The “egregious massacre on Nov. 4, 2019, constituted an act of terrorism,” Motley Rice lawyers wrote in a Feb. 9 court filing in a New York case.‘MOST RUTHLESS’ MEXICAN CARTELS OPERATE IN ALL 50 STATES, BRING TURF WARS TO US: DEAMotley Rice filed over 1,200 cases in federal courts throughout the country to collect assets and cash seized during Mexican drug trafficking busts. Many of the claims worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars were resolved and turned over. But the Motley Firm hit a wall when it went after $6.25 million the feds seized during a major 2021 money laundering bust in the southern district of New York. The head prosecutor, Damian Williams, argued in opposition court filings there’s no connection between the money laundering scheme that federal agents took down and the 2019 massacre. KILLERS IN MEXICO ‘CAN LOOK LIKE ANYONE,’ INCLUDING A KIM KARDASHIAN LOOKALIKE OR SEVEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD”The United States holds a vested interest in the forfeiture assets,” Williams wrote in a Feb. 15 response. Ruling in favor of the plaintiffs “may impair or impede the ability of the United States to protect its interest in the forfeiture assets.”The Southern District of New York prosecutor’s office moved to dismiss the forfeiture case, which was essentially put on pause until a higher court makes a ruling. The Motley Firm declined to comment until there’s a decision. WATCH: INTERVIEW WITH PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: CARTEL KILLERS ‘CAN LOOK LIKE ANYONE’The most recent update in the New York forfeiture case was filed May 9, when the case was reassigned to U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein.New York’s attempt to dismiss the case conflicts with a Feb. 23 decision in Ohio that awarded the victims’ families $9.93 million in assets seized during a bust in June 2023, according to court documents. BEAUTY QUEEN ARRESTED IN MEXICAN CARTEL BUST THAT INCLUDED ONE OF FED’S MOST WANTED FUGITIVESThe federal judges’ competing decisions could be Motley Firm’s big-picture game plan, University of Pennsylvania professor Louis Rulli told Bloomberg Law. “Appellate courts that have looked at these issues have ruled for the government, but the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet spoken on the issues that Motley Rice present,” said Rulli, whose specialty is forfeiture law. Bloomberg Law also spoke to Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor whose consulting firm specializes in asset forfeiture law. Cassella told the outlet he sides with the New York federal prosecutor’s stance. “It’s not an opportunity for everybody to come in and say, ‘I don’t like that guy, he owes me money,'” Cassella said. Both sides are waiting for Stein’s final decision. 

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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