United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS (DOC. NO. 150)
Sorokin United States District Judge.
Alberto Arias moves to suppress evidence derived from the
search and seizure of a blue Honda Accord he was driving at
the time it was impounded. Doc. No. 150. As to the evidence
from the car, Arias raises two issues: first, that the
officers did not have probable cause to search or tow the
blue Honda Accord and second, that the officers should have
obtained a warrant before searching the car. The government
opposed the motion, Doc. No. 158, and Arias replied, Doc. No.
163. Following a hearing, the Court requested supplemental
briefing to clarify the facts. The government filed a
supplemental memorandum and affidavit, Doc. No. 174, and
Arias responded, Doc. No. 178. For the reasons stated below,
the motion to suppress is DENIED.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted a Title III
investigation which revealed that Arias was an active drug
trafficker in the Boston area, supplying heroin and cocaine
to redistributors. Between August 12, 2015, and August 26,
2015, the DEA intercepted a number of calls between Arias and
Juan Pena, a codefendant. Doc. No. 158-2 at 10-12. Pena
wanted to obtain a supply of heroin from Arias. Id.
On August 26, 2015, Arias sold the heroin to Pena and Pena
made multiple calls to other unknown individuals to
distribute the heroin. Id. at 13. Between September
18, 2015, and October 2, 2015, the DEA intercepted calls
between Arias and multiple redistributors about supplying
drugs. Id. at 13-16. In one call, Arias explained to
another person how to operate “a really good
hide” in the car. Id. at 14. On September 29,
2015, investigators observed Arias in a blue Honda Accord
making multiple hand-to-hand deliveries of drugs.
Id. at 16-17. On October 4, 2015, the DEA
intercepted multiple calls between Arias and Carlos
Quesada-Varment, a codefendant here, about drugs Arias
intended to obtain from Quesada-Varment. Id. at
of information gleaned from the intercepted calls,
surveillance was established on Arias on October 4, 2015.
Doc. No. 158-3 at 2. Arias and Andy Aviles, a codefendant,
were observed in the blue Honda Accord picking up drugs at a
motel in Sharon, MA, around 4:11 pm. Id. at 8-9.
Investigators intercepted additional calls in which Arias
discussed taking the drugs to customers to be tested and
later coming back to the motel to return the drugs.
Id. at 11. Investigators saw the blue Honda Accord
arrive at the motel at 10:55 pm. Id. Arias and
Aviles exited the vehicle and carried a large square white
item into one of the rooms. Id. at 12. A few minutes
later, Quesada-Varment exited that room and walked to a black
Honda Accord with a large white bag with something square in
the bottom. Id. Shortly thereafter, Quesada-Verment
exited the vehicle without anything in his hands.
October 5, 2015, investigators saw the black Honda Accord
leaving the motel. Id. at 14. The vehicle was
stopped on I-95 N with the assistance of Massachusetts State
Police. Id. While searching the car, investigators
found a hidden compartment with approximately 4 kilograms of
cocaine and a loaded handgun. Id. at 14-15.
October 7, 2015, DEA investigators intercepted calls
indicating that Arias intended to go to Rhode Island to meet
a source of supply. Doc. No. 158-4 at 3. Investigators
followed the blue Honda Accord from Massachusetts to Rhode
Island. Id. at 4. While Arias was driving,
investigators intercepted a call in which Arias told an
unidentified person that he would call “in two  hours
to see what you want.” Id. Arias arrived in
Central Falls, RI. Id. When the blue Honda Accord
arrived at approximately 3:27 pm, Arias and an unidentified
person discussed Arias's arrival. Id.
Investigators saw that only the passenger was in the blue
Honda Accord. Id. At approximately 3:36 pm,
investigators saw Arias return to the blue Honda Accord,
recline the seat, and reach into the rear seat on the
passenger's side. Id. Arias began to drive back
to Massachusetts. Id. at 5. When he reached the
Rhode Island border, surveillance was stopped. Id.
approximately 4:10 pm while on routine patrol, Massachusetts
State Trooper Michael Tryon saw the blue Honda Accord
speeding. Doc. No. 158-1 at 1. Trooper Tryon stopped the car
for going 81 mph, well over the 65 mph speed limit.
Id. The driver (Arias) produced a Massachusetts
license identifying him as Jose Antonio Folchrivera.
Id. The registration stated that Marie Rodriguez
owned the car. Id. The passenger was identified as
Andy Aviles. Id. Trooper Tryon spoke with Arias and
noticed that he was nervous and sweating. Id.
Trooper Tryon also “noticed what appeared to be a large
amount of U.S. Currency in the center console area as well as
money scattered on the floor of the vehicle and several cell
phones inside the vehicle.” Id. Arias and
Aviles began speaking in Spanish to each other. Arias
“then stared straight ahead and stated in Spanish that
he did not speak English.” Id. Trooper Tryon
then received information from Troop H Communications that
the passenger, Aviles, had a warrant for family abuse from
Puerto Rico. Trooper Tryon asked Aviles to exit the vehicle,
pat frisked him for weapons, and placed him in handcuffs
“for [his] safety while waiting on confirmation of
extradition.” Id. Arias and Aviles were
speaking Spanish to each other so Trooper Tryon requested
that another cruiser with a Spanish-speaking officer come to
assist. Id. Trooper Tryon states that “At this
time, Trooper Conway arrived” but it is not clear
whether Trooper Conway is the Spanish-speaking officer
Trooper Tryon requested. Id. Trooper Tryon asked
Arias who the vehicle belonged to and Arias said Maria.
Id. Trooper Tryon asked Maria's last name and
Arias said he did not know. Id. Arias stated that he
was on his way to Maria's house but he could not provide
the address on the registration. Id.
to Trooper Tryon, “As a result of the criminal
indicators observed during [his] encounter with both [Arias]
and Aviles, in particular the discrepancies relative to the
registered owner and for safety purposes, [he] requested a
tow for the vehicle.” Id. According to the DEA
report, “Based on probable cause from the Title III
intercepted calls of [Arias]'s phone and [Arias]'s
inability to provide information regarding the registered
owner of the Honda, other than the registered owner's
first name, the Honda was towed to the MSP-Foxboro
Barracks.” Doc. No. 158-4 at 5. While the reports did
not make clear whether the DEA has contacted the
Massachusetts State Police, Trooper Tryon's supplemental
affidavit states that the DEA contacted the State Police,
informed them of the Title III investigation, provided a
description of the blue Honda Accord, and asked that the
State Police have a Trooper perform a traffic stop of the
vehicle to assist the investigation. Doc. No. 174-1 at 1.
Tryon asked if Arias and Aviles wanted to accompany the
vehicle to the State Police barracks until the owner arrived
but they declined and instead had Trooper Conway drop them
off by an exit from the highway. Doc. No. 158-1 at 2. Trooper
Tryon requested that a K-9 meet the car at the barracks to
search for narcotics. Id. The K-9 unit arrived and
alerted for narcotics on the blue Honda Accord. The vehicle
was subsequently searched and a hidden aftermarket
compartment was found. Inside the compartment were
approximately 2 kilograms of heroin and a loaded handgun.
Multiple cell phones were also found.
Arias and Aviles arrived at the State Police Barracks with
the owner of the car, Marie Rodriguez, Massachusetts State
Police arrested Arias and Aviles. Id. at 2-3. They
were advised of their rights through a written statement in
Spanish. Id. at 3.
parties do not disagree about whether the initial stop of the
car for speeding is reasonable. Trooper Tryon had reasonable
suspicion of a traffic violation, speeding. Regardless,
Trooper Tryon had probable cause based on the information the
DEA provided. The issue is thus whether the impoundment of
the car and the search of the car were conducted within the
confines of the Fourth Amendment. The Court assumes without
deciding that Arias has a reasonable expectation of privacy
in the car and thus is able to challenge the stop and ensuing