FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 12CV177496
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD A. GRONSKY,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellant.
MICHAEL J. CAMERA, Attorney at Law, for Appellees.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
J. CARR JUDGE.
Appellant the State of Ohio appeals from the judgment of the
Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms in
part, reverses in part, and remands the matter for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
This Court summarized much of the facts and history of the
case in the prior appeal. This matter involves
a forfeiture action wherein the State of Ohio sought the
forfeiture of three bank accounts in connection with welfare
fraud. By way of background, the police began investigating
Adames Deli & Grocery, Inc. (the "Deli") for
potential welfare fraud after receiving a tip. The police
used a confidential informant to conduct five controlled buys
at the Deli. According to the confidential informant's
testimony, the store clerk, Rafael Coll, allowed her to pay
for ineligible items with an Electronic Benefit Transfer
("EBT") card during each controlled buy. Other
witnesses, who were not confidential informants, testified
that Mr. Coll also allowed them to pay for ineligible items
using their EBT cards, including cell phone minutes,
cigarettes, newspapers, prepared food, lighters, and laundry
A grand jury indicted Mr. Coll on ten counts of illegal use
of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits or WIC
program benefits in violation of Revised Code Section
2913.46(B). A grand jury also indicted the Deli, and the
trial court consolidated the cases for trial. After a two-day
bench trial, the trial court found Mr. Coll guilty of five
counts and sentenced him to community control. The trial
court found the Deli not guilty on all counts.
Following the conclusion of the criminal trial, the State
pursued its forfeiture action, which had been stayed pending
the criminal trial. The parties stipulated to the admission
of the transcripts and evidence from the criminal cases in
the forfeiture case. At the forfeiture hearing, the State
argued that three separate bank accounts, one belonging to
Mr. Coll, and two belonging to the Deli, contained proceeds
of illegal welfare transactions. Mr. Coll's account
contained $4, 403.61, while the Deli's accounts contained
a total of $8, 107.91. The State argued that records
reflected that the Deli's EBT reimbursements far exceeded
its reported sales, indicating that the Deli received EBT
redemptions for ineligible items. The State also argued that,
while it was seeking forfeiture of roughly $12, 500, the Deli
received hundreds of thousands of overpayments from the
government relative to sales of ineligible items. For
example, the State pointed to evidence indicating that, in
2011, the Deli reported $150, 298.27 in food sales for tax
purposes, yet received $413, 917.42 in EBT redemptions, which
is a redemption rate of approximately 275%. By comparison,
three other local stores had redemption rates ranging between
18% and 24% for the same year.
The defense presented two witnesses at the forfeiture
hearing: Mr. Coll and Francisco Adames, one of the Deli's
owners. Mr. Coll testified that he was the sole employee of
the Deli, that he earned $500.00 a week, and that he received
his paycheck through direct deposit, which came from one of
the Deli's accounts.
State v. Adames Deli & Grocery, Inc., 9th Dist.
Lorain No. 17CA011148, 2018-Ohio-442, ¶ 2-5. Mr. Coll
additionally testified that his daughter won $5, 000 in the
lottery which she gave to him so that he could pay his bills
since she lived with him. He averred that he deposited the
money into his account that was at issue. Mr. Coll could not
remember when his daughter won the lottery and did not
provide any documentation to support his claim.
Mr. Adames testified that he made a mistake when filing the
Deli's taxes because he overestimated taxable sales and
underestimated food sales. He testified that he was
inexperienced in this regard, but "did the best [he]
could[.]" Other than his testimony, Mr. Adames did not
present any evidence that contradicted the State's
evidence, or showed that the figures the State used from the
Ohio Department of Taxation or the Ohio Department of Job and
Family Services (which maintains EBT redemption records) were
The trial court summarily determined that the State met its
burden with respect to the items Mr. Coll sold to the
confidential informant during the five controlled buys, which
totaled $153.31. It, therefore, ordered a partial forfeiture
of Mr. Coll's account in the amount of $153.31, plus any
accrued interest. The trial court further held that the State
"failed to meet its burden for any other issue as it
pertains to this claim[, ]" and ordered the release of
the remaining two accounts. The State then moved for findings
of fact and conclusions of law under Civil Rule 52.
In its conclusions of law, the trial court stated that the
burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, and held
that the State met its burden with respect to the five
controlled buys. It provided no analysis as to why the State
failed to meet its burden with respect to the other two
accounts, or why it only ordered a partial forfeiture of Mr.
Id. at ¶ 5-7.
The State appealed, raising three assignments of error for
our review. Id. at ¶ 7. Ultimately, we
concluded that we were unable to conduct a meaningful review
because, while the trial court indicated the State failed to
meet its burden with the respect to the two accounts
belonging to the Deli, the trial court provided no analysis
in support of that conclusion. Id. at ¶ 10.
Thus, this Court determined that the trial court's
findings of fact and conclusions of law failed to satisfy
Civ.R. 52. Id. Accordingly, we remanded the matter
for the trial court to issue findings of fact and conclusions
of law that were sufficient to permit appellate review.
Upon remand, the trial court issued additional findings and
conclusions. In its conclusions of law, the trial court found
In reviewing the evidence, [the State] has established, by
the preponderance of the evidence that the sum of $153.31 was
proceeds derived from or acquired through the commission of
an offense. This is the sum of money utilized by the
confidential informant in her various undercover purchases
from Defendant Deli and its clerk, Defendant Coll. However,
[the State] has not established by the preponderance of the
evidence that the remaining funds in Defendant Coll's
account were proceeds derived from the commission of an
offense. This is especially true considering the evidence
that this account contained funds commingled with funds from
an innocent third party. Furthermore, there was no evidence
presented that the accounts belonging to Defendant Deli,
which was found not guilty of the underlying criminal
actions, contained any funds from the commission of an
offense as it was found not guilty of any such offense.
Thus, the trial court again ordered that the State was only
entitled to retain the $153.31 from Mr. Coll's account
and ordered the remainder of that account and the two
accounts of the Deli returned to their owners.
The State has appealed, raising four assignments of error for
our review. To facilitate our review, we will address the
arguments out of sequence. Neither Mr. Coll nor ...