This case is one of a pair of lawsuits filed against the Arizona Attorney General to challenge his practice of seizing money wire transferred to Mexico through Western Union. In an attempt to curtail the smuggling of undocumented immigrants by trafficking organizations (known as "coyotes") from Mexico to Arizona, the Arizona Attorney General had obtained warrants and seized millions of dollars of money that was wire transferred to Mexico. The Attorney General focused on amounts over $500 which were believed to have been sent as payments to Mexican smugglers who had transported people or drugs into Arizona.
On October 18, 2007, a class-action lawsuit was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by three individual plaintiffs who claimed that they transferred money through Western Union for legitimate purposes, only to have their money seized by authorities. Plaintiffs alleged that the seizures violated their rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as money damages.
The complaint set out factual allegations in which the three named plaintiffs lost money that they had attempted to wire via Western Union:
• Javier Torres, a legal resident of the U.S., wired $1,000 to a friend in Arizona as payment for a car he had purchased. When the friend did not receive the money, Torres called Western Union and was told that Arizona law enforcement agents would contact him. Agents later advised Torres that they believed the money was sent to a "coyote" or drug deal, and that he could not recover the money unless he produced paperwork that documented ownership. Torres was unable to produce any such papers and the money was not returned.
• Alma Santiago sent $2,000 via Western Union to her cousin in Phoenix, Arizona. When the money did not arrive, Santiago called Western Union, who told her that authorities seized the money. Santiago was later contacted by the authorities who told her that the money would not be released unless her cousin, who had no telephone, spoke with authorities.
• Lia Rivadeneyra, a lawful resident of California, sent $500 via Western Union to her brother in Sonora, Mexico, where he was visiting friends. When the money never arrived, Rivadeneyra was informed that she could not get her funds back unless authorities spoke with her brother, who had returned to Peru from Mexico, and was living there in a house without a phone.
Plaintiffs' complaint was subsequently amended twice, but the substantive claims remained the same.
Subsequently, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification. (Doc. 79.) On March 31, 2010, the court (Judge Stephen M. McNamee) denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification, Torres v. Goddard, No. CV 06-2482-PHX-SMM, 2010 WL 3023272 (D. Ariz. July 30, 2010), and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals then denied plaintiffs' permission to immediately appeal the court's ruling.
Plaintiffs' filed a motion for summary judgment and defendants' filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On September 4, 2012, the court granted defendants' motion, finding that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Torres v. Horne, No. CV-06-2482-PHX-SMM, 2012 WL 3818974 (D. Ariz. Sept. 4, 2012). The case was therefore dismissed.
Plaintiffs then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is now pending [12-17096]. The last action in the case at the time this summary was written was the appellants' submission of their reply brief on May 7, 2013.Dan Dalton - 09/17/2007
Jennifer Bronson - 11/27/2013