United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS'
MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS (Dkt. Nos. 151, 157, 158, 159, 238, 239,
G. MASTROIANNI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
25, 2016, as the result of a multi-agency investigation,
federal agents seized 15, 294 bags of heroin, 28.5 grams of
cocaine, a small amount of marijuana, firearms, ammunition,
and over $23, 000 in cash from the residence located at 53
Samosett Street, Holyoke, MA (“the house”) and an
Infiniti sedan parked in front of the house. Defendants were
subsequently indicted and charged with various drug- and
firearm-related offenses, including conspiracy, distribution,
possession, aiding and abetting, and felon in possession.
See Dkt. No. 116.
the court are motions to suppress filed by Defendants
Christopher Caballero (Dkt. No. 151), Sean Krasin (Dkt. No.
157), and Nathan Caballero (Dkt. No. 159). Krasin also
sought to join Christopher Caballero's motion to
suppress (Dkt. No. 158). An evidentiary hearing took place
over four days: February 15, March 27, June 5, and June 22,
2018. On August 7, 2018, the government, the Caballero
brothers, and Krasin submitted supplemental briefing based on
the evidentiary hearing. See Dkt. Nos. 238, 239,
reasons set forth below, the court denies the motions to
suppress. All of the evidence recovered from the house and
the Infiniti is admissible. Krasin's motion to join
Christopher Caballero's motion to suppress is denied as
FINDINGS OF FACT
court bases its findings on the evidence introduced at the
evidentiary hearing. Five witnesses testified at the hearing:
FBI Special Agent Douglas Bessette; FBI Special Agent Mark
Karangekis; Holyoke Police Department Detective Jared Hamel;
Michael Garneau, an expert in forensic analysis of video,
audio, and digital images; and Alyssa Caballero, the
Caballero brothers' sister who lived with them at 53
Samosett Street. Agents Bessette and Karangekis and Detective
Hamel were credible: their respective testimony was mutually
corroborating, and text messages, phone calls, and video
footage corroborated all of their testimony.
Garneau was credible, but his testimony was ultimately
unpersuasive. He testified that pole camera footage
apparently showed flashes of light that he believes came from
a camera or cell phone, inside the house, and showed patterns
of light that he believes are consistent with a flashlight.
He also testified the video footage showed officers entering
the house with paper bags and flashlights. Defendants'
conclusion that Mr. Garneau's testimony establishes that
the police unlawfully searched the house before the warrant
issued is speculative. Mr. Garneau's testimony does not
persuade the court that police searched the house between
conducting a protective sweep and the time the warrant
issued, or that police acted unreasonably. The court's
assessment of Mr. Garneau's testimony is discussed more
fully in section II.C below.
Caballero's testimony was not credible based upon the
court's observing her testimony and considering its
substance. While she appeared generally responsible and was
articulate, her testimony regarding the events of July 25,
2016, her knowledge and beliefs concerning her brothers'
livelihood, and the role that livelihood played in the house
is not credited. As the evidence amply demonstrated,
contraband and various indicia of drug distribution lined the
house. The breadth of this evidence overwhelms her claim that
she had no knowledge of her brothers' drug sales. For
example, a photograph of the kitchen shows a drug scale in
the open on the counter. But Ms. Caballero-who was eating
dinner with her children in the kitchen when law enforcement
agents entered-claimed she had “never seen [the scale]
before.” Likewise, there was a safe in the basement
near where she did laundry “at least every other day,
” but she testified she did not know the safe was
there. There was also a bottle of caffeine powder (which is
commonly used to dilute heroin) on top of the washing
machine, but Ms. Caballero testified she had never seen it.
That assertion too is not believable given how frequently she
was in the basement doing laundry. Similarly, her testimony
that she did not know who owned the Infiniti-which was owned
by one of her brothers and which, according to Agent
Karangekis, was parked outside of the house for “a
great deal” of the weeks'-long investigation-is
on the credible testimony and other evidence presented at the
evidentiary hearing, the court makes the following factual
early 2016, the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force
(“GTF”) investigated heroin distribution by La
Familia, a local street gang in the Holyoke and Springfield
areas. As part of that investigation, the GTF cultivated
cooperating witnesses (“CWs”) who purchased
heroin multiple times from both Caballero brothers, Krasin,
and Defendant Luis Roman-Soler during the spring of 2016.
Several of the purchases from the Caballero brothers were
made at their home, located at 53 Samosett Street.
hoped to identify and pursue the Defendants' bulk
supplier. To do so, the GTF obtained Title III warrants for
electronic surveillance of several cell phones, conducted
phone surveillance (of both calls and text messages), and
installed a pole camera outside 53 Samosett Street. Through
those means, agents determined that retail-level heroin sales
took place at the house on a near daily basis. Based on this
evidence, Agent Bessette testified he believed there was
probable cause to apply for a warrant to search the house,
but the GTF did not apply for one because it still had not
identified the heroin supplier.
Events of July 25, 2016
July 25, 2016-through a series of intercepted cell phone
calls and text messages-the GTF learned the identity of the
person believed to be the supplier: Defendant Carrasquillo.
Late that afternoon, Christopher Caballero began exchanging
calls and texts with a number not being surveilled and that
ended up belonging to Carrasquillo. At approximately 4:38
p.m., Christopher called Carrasquillo asking to purchase a
“100 pack” of heroin, which is comprised of
approximately 10, 000 end-user bundles, for $22, 000.
Carrasquillo did not know Christopher Caballero by voice or
name until Christopher identified himself as Nathan
Caballero's brother, whom Christopher described as the
person “who buys all your material.” As Agent
Bessette testified, law enforcement had not previously
surveilled communications with Carrasquillo and inferred from
this conversation that “this was the load [they] were
looking for.” At 5:13 p.m., during a second phone call,
Christopher told Carrasquillo that he was at the mall. They
discussed price, and Christopher ended the call stating he
needed time to determine the exact amount he would purchase
(either 90 or 100 packs). Agent Bessette testified that at
this point, he did not know where the deal would happen
because Christopher said he was at the mall, and he and
Carrasquillo did not discuss where to meet.
Bessette called the federal prosecutor on the case at around
5:30 p.m. to discuss the documents needed for a search
warrant application. At this point, he did not yet know where
Christopher and Carrasquillo would meet, but Agent Bessette
testified he began the process of preparing a search warrant
affidavit and related warrant application documents.
approximately 6:09 p.m., Carrasquillo called Christopher, and
they discussed where to meet to conduct the drug sale.
Christopher said to meet at “my crib”-which the
GTF believed meant 53 Samosett Street-“in 20
minutes.” Over 20 minutes later, that meeting had not
occurred. At approximately 6:35 p.m., Christopher texted
Carrasquillo with questions about the brand of the heroin and
concerns about quality and purity. Christopher indicated he
was still determining the exact quantity he would purchase.
Carrasquillo responded the heroin he had available had a
different stamp on it than heroin he had sold before, but he
assured Christopher that despite the different stamp, the
heroin was the same as what he had previously sold.
this text message exchange, Agent Bessette met with the
prosecutor, and together they contacted the magistrate judge
about the warrant application. The magistrate judge
instructed them to meet her at the State Police barracks in
p.m., Christopher texted Carrasquillo, saying he wanted 100
packs of heroin. Carrasquillo responded, “K” and
then, “On my way.” One minute later, though,
Carrasquillo asked Christopher to instead meet at the mall.
Agent Bessette testified that at this point, he did not know
where the sale would take place.
promptly responded, asking for a reduced price. He did not
respond to Carrasquillo's request to meet at the mall,
nor did he mention where the transaction would occur. Roughly
a half hour later, at 7:42 p.m., the two spoke over the
phone, negotiated a final price and quantity, and agreed to
meet at 53 Samosett Street. Agent Bessette testified that
this 7:42 call “definitively, ” and for the first
time, “established” the meeting place as 53
approximately 8:00 p.m., agents observed a BMW SUV arrive at
the house. Carrasquillo got out of the front passenger door
(the driver remained in the vehicle), got a black backpack
out of the backseat, and entered the house with the backpack.
Agents Bessette and Karangekis testified that 100 packs of
heroin would have fit in the backpack.
Initial Entry into the House
Agent Karangekis' orders, eight to ten agents entered the
house through the front door roughly two to three minutes
after Carrasquillo did. Other agents and law enforcement
officers were stationed around the house. Agent Karangekis
testified: “We had officers approach the BMW. We had
officers cover the front street, and we had officers cover
the rear.” Detective Hamel confirmed there were
officers securing the back of the house, and there were
officers “securing Samosett Street on either side of
intended to secure the premises pending issuance of the
warrant. Agent Karangekis testified: “I made a decision
to make entry and secure the location so as to make sure no
contraband was removed or destroyed and that we could secure
individuals within [the] inside.” Agent Bessette
concurred: “We believed that the hundred packs of
heroin were going to be coming to the house and we wanted to
essentially freeze the scene and get a search warrant.”
found the front door ajar and pushed it open. Immediately
inside the house, agents discovered Christopher Caballero and
Carrasquillo on a couch in the living room. Blocks of what
appeared to be packaged heroin and a partially opened
backpack with a “large amount of cash” in it were
also on the couch. Carrasquillo's hand was on or under
the backpack, and after he failed to heed an order to move
his hand, he was taken to the ground by an officer. Both
Christopher and Carrasquillo were handcuffed and pat-frisked
for weapons. Officers also patted the couch and the backpack
to check for weapons but left in place the money in the
backpack. Other officers subdued Nathan Caballero in his
bedroom in the back of the first floor; they handcuffed him
and pat-frisked him for weapons.
also performed a protective sweep of the house, from the
basement to the second floor, searching in the many areas
that may hide a person's body. The sweep lasted
approximately five to ten minutes.
Caballero brothers and Carrasquillo were all brought to the
kitchen. Agents ordered Alyssa Caballero, who had been in the
kitchen feeding three minor children, to remain there with
the children. Agent Karangekis told the Caballero brothers
and Carrasquillo that they “were securing the residence
so that [they] could apply for a search warrant and if
granted a search warrant, search the house.” He told
them that he did not want to ask them any questions, and he
orally gave them Miranda warnings. Agent Karangekis
testified that he did not ask questions of any of the ...