In Pondexter v. Murrieta, No. CV-20-02124-PHX-DLR, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10166 (D. Ariz. Jan. 20, 2021), Judge Reyes dismissed a case filed against an auto lender.
This lawsuit stems from a retail installment sale contract (“RISC”) for the purchase of a 2019 Mercedes (the “Mercedes”), entered into between Plaintiff and Autonation Chevrolet Arrowhead (“Autonation”) on August 29, 2020. (Doc. 2-2 at 33-39.) Autonation thereafter sold or assigned the RISC to Wells Fargo. Plaintiff then attempted to pay off her debt by presenting Wells Fargo with an illegitimate financial instrument—CREDIT AGREEMENT PAYOFF SECURITY CAP SECURITY, NOTE 000021617. (Doc. 2-1 at 13-14). After receipt, Wells Fargo did not excuse the debt on the vehicle. On November 4, 2020, Plaintiff filed a complaint against several Wells Fargo employees—Abdiel Murrieta, Daniel Pierce, Ashley Lopez, Hector Reyna, Charles Scharf (Wells Fargo’s CEO) and Mike Santomassimo (Wells Fargo’s CFO). (Doc. 1.) The complaint “has many hallmarks of the ‘sovereign citizen’ redemption theory.” France v. Mackey, No. 2:20-cv-2424-BHH-MHC, 2020 WL 6385562, at *5 (D.S.C. Oct. 7, 2020) (quoting United States v. Ulloa, 511 F. App’x 105, 106 n.1 (2d Cir. 2013) (“sovereign citizens are a loosely affiliated group who believe that the state and federal governments lack constitutional legitimacy and therefore have no authority to regulate their behavior”)). Nevertheless, having reviewed the complaint, the Court determines that it could be fairly read as raising six issues: (1) breach of contract, (2) fraud in factum upon the court, (3) conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), (4) lack of jurisdiction to collect the debt, (5) failure to produce the original contract, and (6) financial discrimination. (Id.) On December 16, 2020, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which argues, inter alia, that Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim. The motion is now ripe.
In the Persona v. Mackey, No. 2:20-cv-2424-BHH-MHC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 204242 (D.S.C. Oct. 7, 2020) case that the Court cited, the District Court in South Carolina had found:
On or around December 4, 2019, Plaintiff created and executed a document labeled “NEGOTIABLE SECURITY No.: 000016878,” which purported to be a “legally processed Debt or Assessed Tax Payoff Security Instrument” and “legal tender at face value for all debts public and private” (the “Credit Agreement Payoff Security”). ECF No. 1-1 at 64, Exh. B to Compl. The document states, “I, Christopher James Francis, Registered Private Banker . . . hereby obligated to Pay to the Order of FREDDIE MAC, U.S. TREASURY, OR HOMEBRIDGE FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC . . . the full amount specified by this CREDIT AGREEMENT PAYOFF SECURITY INSTRUMENT,” and it lists an amount of $460,000. Id. The document further states, This legal security Instrument credit agreement property, payoff, counter offer, release, satisfaction, set off, note, legal tender, shall be full acquittance, discharge, and debt account closure and constitutes a valid credit agreement, payoff, and discharge between the parties via U.S. Treasury Property Custodian; shall nullify and void original debt agreement with payment or credit issued to claimant’s agent via U.S. Treasury assignment upon communication. Failure to follow these terms and conditions, assignee, claimant, investor, bearer, IRS, or holder has accepted this Legal Credit Agreement Debt Payoff as a legal UCC1 Commercially Registered Security Instrument under SEC Rules . . . . To obtain full credit, only process via the TREASURY DEPARTMENT Alien Property Custodian for the account and obligation of the United States. Id. The top of the document contains a listing of various U.C.C. articles and refers to the United Nations UNCITRAL Convention Treaty. Id. . .Courts around the nation have rejected similar claims, concluding that promissory notes like Plaintiff’s Credit Agreement Payoff Security are not legal tender and cannot be used to discharge mortgage or other debts. See Marvin v. Capital One, No. 1:15-CV-1310, 2016 WL 4548382, at *4 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 16, 2016), adopted by, No. 1:15-CV-1310, 2016 WL 4541997 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 31, 2016), aff’d, No. 16-2307, 2017 WL 4317143 (6th Cir. June 6, 2017) (“Plaintiff cannot pay his debt owed to Capital One by use of a purported ‘international promissory note’ authorized under the UNCITRAL convention because such a note is not legal tender.”); Chopin v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, No. CV 15-1918, 2016 WL 1244515 at *2 (E.D. La. March 30, 2016) (courts throughout the country have held that international promissory notes are not legal tender, “rejecting conspiracy theories that similarly argue [international promissory notes] and bills of exchange may discharge a mortgage or other debts”); In re Walters, No. 14-10119 (SMB), 2015 WL 3935237 at *3 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. June 25, 2015) (“The Notes Walters issued did not discharge the underlying indebtedness because the Notes were not legal tender.”); Bryant v. Washington Mut. Bank, 524 F. Supp. 2d 753, 760 (W.D. Va. 2007), aff’d, 282 F. App’x 260 (4th Cir. 2008) (describing the “redemption” theory, granting motion to dismiss, and finding that “the legal authorities Plaintiff cites and the facts she alleges suggest that she did not tender payment, but rather a worthless piece of paper”). As explained more fully below, the undersigned concludes that, even taking Plaintiff’s pro se status into account, the Complaint is frivolous, lacks any discernable legal foundation, and should be dismissed.