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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Jury returns seized
Chinatown building
to its owners

Star-Bulletin staff


The owners of a Chinatown building that was seized by the federal government last year because of alleged drug activities will get their building back.

A federal jury yesterday unanimously found Janet Vicari and daughter Christy Vicari-Coito were "innocent owners" -- meaning they weren't aware of the alleged illegal activities or did not agree to these activities occurring.

The jury also decided in favor of bar owner Amy Breslin, owner of Amy's Place, a former tenant in the building at Smith and North Hotel streets.

U.S. Marshals last year seized the property after a U.S. magistrate found probable cause to believe the property was being used for illegal drug activity.

Most forfeiture cases involve criminal defendants, but not in this case, said Ryan Au, one of the plaintiff attorneys.

The owners and tenant Breslin have never been convicted nor charged with any criminal activity, he said.

Au expects to file motions shortly to enable his clients to retain possession of their building. The owners have had to pay the mortgage on the building even though the federal government had seized it and was collecting rents from two tenants that had remained, he said.

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