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United States v. Gonzalez-Arias

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 15, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JUAN GONZALEZ-ARIAS a/k/a EDUARDO RAMIREZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge.

         Defendant Juan Gonzalez-Arias is charged with various offenses alleging he distributed heroin as part of a conspiracy. See Doc. 27. On June 24, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress (“Motion”) “all evidence seized from” 264 East Haverhill Street, Apartment 18, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, when authorities “executed a search warrant at approximately 12:00 a.m. on July 13, 2015.” Doc. 135. Defendant argues that the affidavit in support of the warrant (“Affidavit”) by DEA Special Agent Garth Hamelin did not establish probable cause “to believe that evidence would be found in the location searched.” Doc. 136 at 7. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A warrant application must demonstrate probable cause to believe that (1) a crime has been committed - the ‘commission' element, and (2) enumerated evidence of the offense will be found at the place to be searched - the so-called ‘nexus' element.” United States v. Dixon, 787 F.3d 55, 59 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting United States v. Feliz, 182 F.3d 82, 86 (1st Cir. 1999)). “With regard to the ‘nexus' element, the task of a magistrate in determining whether probable cause exists is ‘to make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit . . . there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.'” Feliz, 182 F.3d at 86 (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983)). “Put differently, the application must give someone of reasonable caution reason to believe that evidence of a crime will be found at the place to be searched.” United States v. Ribeiro, 397 F.3d 43, 48 (1st Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Feliz, 182 F.3d at 86 (“The probable cause standard does not demand showing that such a belief be correct or more likely true than false.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “The probable-cause nexus between enumerated evidence of the crime and the place can be inferred from the type of crime, the nature of the items sought, the extent of an opportunity for concealment and normal inferences as to where a criminal would hide evidence of a crime.” Ribeiro, 397 F.3d at 49 (citation, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted).

         A magistrate judge's determination that information in a search warrant affidavit establishes probable cause receives “considerable deference, ” such that a reviewing court will reverse the determination only if there was “no substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.” Feliz, 182 F.3d at 86; Dixon, 787 F.3d at 58-59.

         II. AFFIDAVIT'S ALLEGATIONS

         The Affidavit was submitted to Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy on July 12, 2015. Doc. 151 at 51. Based on the Affidavit's facts, Special Agent Hamelin stated he believed that Defendant used 264 East Haverhill Street, Apartment 18 (“the Target Location”), “not only as his residence, but also to stash and prepare narcotics for sale.” Id. Judge Hennessy issued a warrant based on the Affidavit the same day. Id. at 1.

         The Affidavit alleges the following facts: The Target Location was located on the third floor of a three-story brick apartment building. Id. at 25. In March 2014, DEA agents in Boston initiated an investigation into a drug-trafficking organization led by Defendant. Id. at 27.

         On October 22, 2014, agents saw Defendant leave the Target Location and then, about ten minutes later, arrive at a pre-designated location to sell heroin to an undercover agent. Id. at 27-28.

         On November 20, 2014, according to data from a global positioning system (“GPS”) tracking device on Defendant's vehicle, Defendant left the Target Location and then, about 70 minutes later, arrived at the same pre-designated location to again sell heroin to the undercover agent. Id. at 28-29. Shortly thereafter, Defendant traveled back to the Target Location. Id. at 29.

         On March 7, 2015, agents, through an authorized wiretap, heard Defendant call a restaurant and state that he had ordered food to be delivered to East Haverhill Street. Id. at 31. Later, the restaurant called Defendant and informed him that the delivery person had arrived; Defendant said the delivery person should ring Apartment 18. Id.

         On March 27, 2015, investigators saw a co-conspirator of Defendant's park in the parking lot adjacent to the Target Location. Id. at 32. After Defendant made a call that Special Agent Hamelin believed was an order for drugs, [1] the co-conspirator left the Target Location carrying a green bag. Id.

         On April 10, 2015, Defendant and a co-conspirator had a phone conversation in which, Special Agent Hamelin believed, Defendant explained that he was processing heroin for distribution. Id. at 34. According to agents who were monitoring a telephone pole camera outside the Target Location and according to the GPS device on Defendant's vehicle, Defendant was at the Target Location during the phone call. Id. Defendant told the co-conspirator to “give me five minutes, ” then two minutes later left the Target Location to meet the co-conspirator. Id. Immediately after meeting the co-conspirator at a nearby location, Defendant returned to the Target Location. Id. at 34-35.

         On April 18, 2015, after telling a co-conspirator over the phone how much heroin he had to distribute - specifically, he said, “I perhaps have there about 200 to 300 pesos, ” meaning grams - agents saw Defendant leave the Target Location to meet the co-conspirator at a second location. Id. at 35. Agents at the second location saw Defendant arrive carrying a white plastic bag. Id. Shortly after the co-conspirator left the ...


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