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Defendant had no standing to contest a vacatur of the criminal forfeiture order

Frank Amodeo pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States for his failure to collect and remit payroll taxes and obstruction of an agency investigation. His offense arose from his scheme to divert his clients’ payroll taxes to his companies’ bank accounts instead of remitting the money to the I.R.S.   As part of his plea agreement he agreed to forfeit many assets including properties, luxury cars a Lear jet, and the ownership of several corporations including two corporations: AQMI Strategy Corporation and Nexia Strategy Corporation.   After the plea, the district court entered a preliminary forfeiture order for the assets, including the two corporations AQMI and Nexia. The government then moved for and received a final forfeiture order giving clear title to the United States.

Eventually, victims from Amodeo’s scheme filed lawsuits against his corporations, including the forfeited AQMI and Nexia. After the victims served the lawsuits on these two companies, the government moved to vacate the final forfeiture order because both were shell corporations without any assets. The government did not want to defend either corporation. The district court granted the motion and vacated the final forfeiture order as to these two corporations. Amodeo moved to reconsider the partial vacatur on the ground that the district court lacked jurisdiction to alter the final forfeiture order. the district court denied the Amodeo’s motion stating that it had vacated only the final forfeiture order in part and not the preliminary order.  the trial court ruled that Amodeo lacked standing to challenge the  vacatur of that order.

In his appeal Amodeo raised the same argument, claiming that the district court lacked jurisdiction to partially vacate the final forfeiture order. But the court of appeals rejected his claim. It found the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider the issue because Amodeo did not have standing.

Amodeo’s federal criminal attorney argued that he had standing because he claimed the ownership of the corporations reverted to him when the district court partially vacated the final forfeiture order. the court disagreed. After a defendant pleads guilty, there is first a preliminary forfeiture order that becomes final as to the defendant. After the district court conducts any ancillary proceedings giving any third parties an opportunity to assert their interests, the court must enter a final forfeiture order.

The defendant cannot appeal the federal criminal forfeiture order because it has no bearing on the defendant’s rights. The preliminary forfeiture order extinguished all of Amodeo’s interests in the corporations and the partial vacatur of the final forfeiture order did not revive Amodeo’s ownership of the corporations. The district court’s order vacating the final order was only pertaining to the ownership of Nexia and AQMI and Amodeo would still lack any interest in the corporations because he forfeited his interest in the preliminary forfeiture order.

The partial vacatur did not restore his ownership of the corporations or impose their potential liabilities on him. He had no stake in the corporations. The partial vacatur did not aggrieve or even affect him so he suffered no injury from it. Because Amodeo lacked standing, the court dismissed his appeal without determining whether the district court possessed authority to vacate the final order of forfeiture.


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