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United States v. Yera

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SANTO YERA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Patti B. Saris Chief United States District Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Santo Yera moves to suppress evidence seized by the government during a search of 109 Seaver Street, Apartment Two in Stoughton, Massachusetts, and the attic located above the second floor of the apartment building's common hallway. Defendant argues the government failed to establish probable cause to believe that contraband would be found at 109 Seaver Street because there was no nexus between Defendant's drug activities and that location. Moreover, Defendant argues information in the affidavit supporting the search warrant was stale. Finally, Defendant alleges the search of the attic exceeded the scope of the search warrant.

         At the hearing, without objection, Defendant filed an affidavit describing 109 Seaver Street and submitted photographs of the premises. Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Docket No. 227) is DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         I. The Investigation

         In mid-2015, authorities began an investigation of a drug trafficking organization in Brockton, Massachusetts. Investigators believed Luis Rivera ran a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin. Authorities obtained a warrant to intercept wire and electronic communications to and from Rivera's cell phone. Based on multiple intercepted communications over a period of three months, investigators concluded Defendant was a drug supplier for Rivera.

         On February 13, 2016, in an intercepted call between Rivera and Defendant, Rivera asked Defendant, “Are you Gucci?” Investigators interpreted this communication to mean that Rivera was asking if Defendant had cocaine for sale. Rivera used the term “Gucci” as a code word to indicate to his customers that he had cocaine.

         On February 29, 2016, communications between Rivera and Defendant indicated Defendant was going to supply Rivera with drugs. Rivera told Defendant “a nice check” was ready for him if he could supply Rivera with more drugs. Defendant said that he could.

         On March 10, 2016, Defendant and Rivera texted each other to set a place and time to meet. Surveillance units observed them meet at Defendant's workplace, an autobody shop located at 954 Centre Street in Brockton, Massachusetts. After their meeting, Rivera sold 69 grams of cocaine to a customer. Investigators believe Defendant supplied the drugs Rivera sold to his customer that night.

         On April 7, 2016, communications between Defendant and Rivera suggested they were going to engage in another drug transaction. Rivera texted Defendant asking, “Oh, you got it over there?” About 23 minutes later, Rivera contacted Defendant and said, “I'm outside sucker.” Although investigators did not see Rivera at 109 Seaver Street, GPS data from Rivera's cell phone placed him at that location. A car belonging to Defendant was also observed at the scene, suggesting that Defendant was also at 109 Seaver Street. Based on Rivera's conversations with customers prior to meeting with Defendant, along with conversations between Rivera and Defendant that same day, investigators believed Rivera picked up cocaine from Defendant's residence to then sell to a customer.

         On May 22, 2016, approximately three weeks before the search warrant for 109 Seaver Street was issued, Rivera spoke with Defendant “to see if [Defendant] can throw [Rivera] some more so [he] can mix it with this one.” Investigators interpreted this request as Rivera asking Defendant for more cocaine.

         II. 109 Seaver Street and the Attic

         109 Seaver Street is a two-story residence. There are two apartments in the building, one on each floor. The landlord of 109 Seaver Street lives next door at 107 Seaver Street. Apartment Two, Defendant's apartment, is on the second floor of 109 Seaver Street. There is also an attic trapdoor in the ceiling of the common hallway of the second floor. There are no other units on the second floor. In Defendant's affidavit, he stated he believed the attic area was for storage ...


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