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In re Search of Tobaccoville USA

April 10, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF THE SEARCH OF TOBACCOVILLE USA, INCORPORATED AND J&E DISTRIBUTORS, INC. 1318 EAST BOBO NEWSOME HIGHWAY HARTSVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA


The opinion of the court was delivered by: R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending before the court is Seneca of Carolina LLC and Southern Seneca Distributors' (collectively referred to as "Seneca") [Docket Entry #6] motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), which was joined by interested parties Michael June and J.J. June (collectively referred to as "the Junes") [Docket Entry #12]. Tobaccovillie USA, Incorporated also filed a motion for return of property under Rule 41(g) [Docket Entry #22], which the Junes also joined.

Seneca's Motion

Seneca and the Junes seek the return of their property seized during the execution of a federal search warrant on January 13, 2009. The search warrant was executed at 1318 East Bobo Newsome Highway, Hartsville, South Carolina. The search warrant specifically described the premises to be searched as follows:

Tobaccoville USA Incorporated and J&E Distributors Incorporated 1318 East Bobo Newsome Highway Hartsville, South Carolina Description: Brick and metal construction industrial business From the traffic light at the southernmost intersection of South Carolina state Highway (SC) 151 with SC 151 business, travel EAST on SC 151 (Bobo Newsome Highway) for approximately 0.9 mile. Turn left (NORTH) onto a gravel drive next to two (2) black mailboxes, one (1) of which is marked "1318". This gravel drive is approximately 100 yards past the intersection of Bethel Rd (on the south side of Bobo Newsome) Just past the drive and on the same side of the road (north) is a sign with "Tobaccoville USA, Inc." and "SENECA" written on the sign. Proceed NORTH on the gravel drive for approximately 200 yards to the first building on the right (east) side of the drive. This building appears to be metal-sided, with a brick front. There are no other buildings accessible on the east side of the drive. The building and an accompanying parking lot are bounded by a black chain-link fence. The fence has two (2) gates on its west side, one is on the south end and the other on the north end. Turn EAST and enter either gate. The building is straight ahead, across the parking lot.

Seneca, Tobaccoville USA, J&E Distributors, and the Junes all operate out of the premises described above. The parties stipulated at the hearing on this matter that there were no signs on the outside of the building, nor on the inside indicating separate offices for Seneca, Tobaccoville USA, J&E Distributors, or the Junes. Seneca, however, claims that it constitutes a separate legal entity and operates a separate business from Tobaccoville USA and J&E Distributors. Seneca claims that federal agents wrongfully seized their business records when the agents executed the search warrant and seized certain records from their offices located at 1318 East Bobo Newsome Highway.

Seneca and the Junes contend that they are entitled to a return of their property under Rule 41(g) because they were subjected to an unlawful search and seizure. Alternatively, Seneca contends that it is entitled to a return of its property under Rule 41(g) because the deprivation of ...


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