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Published December 06, 2013, 08:55 PM

Judge allows seizure of Last Place on Earth owner's money, property upon sentencing

The judge in the Jim Carlson synthetic drug case has granted an order deeming millions of dollars and property under Carlson’s name forfeited to the U.S. government upon his sentencing.

By: Mike Creger, Forum News Service

The judge in the Jim Carlson synthetic drug case has granted an order deeming millions of dollars and property under Carlson’s name forfeited to the U.S. government upon his sentencing.

U.S. District Court Judge David Doty signed the order late Thursday after he received a letter from the prosecution in the case stating that Carlson was making attempts from his jail cell to turn titles to property in Mexico over to his girlfriend, Lava Haugen, in order to avoid forfeiture.

Carlson is awaiting sentencing on 51 counts related to sales at his Last Place on Earth store in downtown Duluth. No date for that sentencing has been set.

A motion was filed just after Carlson was found guilty in October to have money and property seized. The order signed by Doty on Thursday would make the seizure effective upon sentencing.

Acting U.S. Attorney John Marti cited recorded jailhouse phone calls Carlson placed to Haugen late last month. In the letter to Doty sent Wednesday, Marti asked the judge to act on an order of forfeiture to prevent Carlson from transferring land and title to a Cozumel, Mexico, home to Haugen. It cited recorded phone calls in which Carlson talks of moving the property into her name and granting her power of attorney over assets connected to the shop.

“It appears that the two are attempting to transfer title of a Cozumel, Mexico, property in order to attempt to complicate or avoid its forfeiture. They may also be authorizing Haugen to take control over corporate accounts subject to forfeiture to minimize the potential forfeiture from those accounts,” the letter states.

Carlson’s attorney, Randall Tigue, said Thursday that he hadn’t heard the recordings the prosecution said were available. He told the News Tribune that it would be “nonsense” to think Carlson could move any assets around while sitting in jail.

Today, after learning of the order, Tigue said it was evident that “Judge Doty isn’t going to do anything for us.”

Tigue said he will seek relief on the forfeiture order in appellate court.

“They’re taking everything he owns away,” Tigue said.

He said the delay in sentencing has been caused by a search for all of Carlson’s assets.

“He has no more assets,” Tigue said. “So there’s no reason to delay.”

The forfeiture order includes two properties that Carlson owns in Cozumel. Court records show he purchased land in a place called Villa Alegria 13 years ago and built a five-bedroom home. The other property is five acres of land Carlson bought in 2005, the motion states.

The letter to Doty says Carlson and Haugen spoke Nov. 22 about transferring the titles on the Mexico properties to Haugen. It said the two spoke again Nov. 30 about transferring power of attorney to Haugen for JRC Enterprises, Carlson’s company, and the Last Place store.

Along with nearly $3 million, two vehicles and guns seized after raids in 2012, the order states the store can be seized along with $6.5 million estimated in profits in 270 days of sales in 2011 and 2012.

Aside from the Mexico properties up for forfeiture, it lists Carlson’s property in Aitkin County near Big Sandy Lake and a townhome in Nevada and more than $1 million in various bank accounts, including $183,724 in cash found in Carlson’s home in Superior.

Marti argued using case law in his letter this week that any transfer of title would constitute “obstruction of justice,” which could lead to more stringent sentences.

Last week, Doty denied a motion to release Carlson before his sentencing. Carlson was found guilty Oct. 7 in a Minneapolis courtroom on 51 felony counts regarding the sale of products at Last Place on Earth. He awaits sentencing in Sherburne County Jail in Elk River.

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