United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
For Harold Bates, Defendant: Barry S. Pollack, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pollack Solomon Duffy LLP, Boston, MA; Joshua L. Solomon, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pollack Solomon Duffy LLP, Boston, MA.
For USA, Plaintiff: James E. Arnold, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office MA, Boston, MA.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Patti B. Saris, Chief United States District Judge.
Defendant, Harold Bates, charged with trafficking in methylone, moves to suppress the contents of four postal parcels, statements made regarding those parcels, and items found at his residence on December 7, 2013. The Court held evidentiary hearings on February 12, 2015 and March 25, 2015. Officer Richard Seibert, a narcotics canine-handler with the Braintree Police Department, and Inspector Stephen Dowd of the U.S. Postal Service in Boston testified at the first hearing. At the second hearing, Dowd again testified, as did the defendant and Julie Carlozzi. Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Docket No. 54) is DENIED.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Background Investigation
In October 2013, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) investigators opened a package in Hollywood, Florida that contained 500 grams of a " white crystal-like substance" that turned out to be the synthetic stimulant methylone. Dowd Aff. at 4. Investigators determined that a computer with an IP address registered to the Rockland, Massachusetts home of Harold Bates was tracking the parcel's whereabouts, and USPS notifications about the parcel's progress from Hong Kong, where it originated, had been sent to Bates's e-mail account. Moreover, they learned that Bates had tracked as many as five other USPS Express Mail packages sent from Hong Kong and China over the previous two months.
Based on this information, USPS Inspector Stephen Dowd launched an investigation into the receipt and distribution of methylone by Bates. In November 2013, inspectors conducted a " trash pull" at Bates's residence. They found the familiar trappings of drug trafficking -- cutoff tops of plastic " baggies," a box for a digital desktop scale, receipts of Western Union wire transfers to China and Hong Kong, and empty Chinese parcels addressed to Bates.
2. Dog Sniffs
A few weeks later, on the morning of December 3, two packages addressed to Julie Carlozzi arrived at the Rockland postal facility. Though they were addressed to Carlozzi, Officer Dowd determined that these packages were ordered by Bates.
Officer Dowd suspected that the parcels addressed to Carlozzi contained drugs, and arranged to have a drug-sniffing canine named " Lucky" inspect them. Dowd took the packages out of the Rockland facility and drove for 20 to 30 minutes to the postal facility in Braintree, where he was greeted by Lucky, a six-year old Labrador retriever, and his handler, Officer Richard Seibert. The Braintree facility is closer to Seibert's home. Dowd conducted the dog sniff there because it is more convenient for Seibert, who has childcare issues. Seibert laid the two packages out on a loading dock, along with four or five " controls" -- similarly-sized packages pulled from the mail stream that were not suspected of containing drugs. Lucky " alerted" to the packages, indicating they " contained narcotics or were recently in close proximity to narcotics." Dowd Aff. at 14.
After Lucky alerted, Inspector Dowd drove the packages back to Rockland, donned a letter carrier's uniform, and attempted a controlled delivery to Carlozzi's home. But there was no answer. Dowd left a package slip and returned the parcels to the Rockland Post Office.
Later that day, Carlozzi called the Rockland Post Office and said she was on her way to pick up the packages. She arrived roughly 20 minutes later. All told, Dowd removed the packages from the mail stream for no more than 2 hours. But delivery of the packages was not delayed, as a letter carrier would not have made the delivery until later that afternoon. After picking up the parcels, Carlozzi drove to a nearby Rite Aid Pharmacy, where police saw her meet Bates and place the packages in the passenger seat of his car. Police followed Bates to his home, and watched him bring the packages inside.
Another two packages from Hong Kong were on track to be delivered a few days later. On the evening of December 5, Dowd spoke to a clerk at the Brockton postal facility and told her he expected packages addressed to Carlozzi to arrive the following morning. Since Dowd knew that Bates was tracking the packages' status online, he asked the clerk not to enter an arrival scan, but to instead reach out to him upon the packages' arrival. Early the next morning, the clerk so notified Dowd, who in turn reached out to Lucky's handler, Seibert, to arrange for a dog-sniff. Dowd removed the packages from the Brockton facility and again took them to the Braintree facility, to accommodate ...