Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Caballero

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 24, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHRISTOPHER CABALLERO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS (Dkt. Nos. 151, 157, 158, 159, 238, 239, 240)

          MARK G. MASTROIANNI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On July 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.

         Before 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).[1] Krasin also sought to join Christopher Caballero's[2] 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, & 240.

         For the 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 moot.[3]

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         The 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.

         Mr. Garneau was credible, but his testimony was ultimately unpersuasive. He testified that pole camera[4] 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.

         Ms. 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 incredible.

         Based on the credible testimony and other evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, the court makes the following factual findings.

         A. GTF Investigation

         In early 2016, the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force (“GTF”)[5] 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.

         The GTF 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.

         B. Events of July 25, 2016

          On 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.

         Agent 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.

         At 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.

         During 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 Northampton, MA.

         At 7:08 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.

         Christopher 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 Samosett Street.

         At 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.

         C. Initial Entry into the House

          On 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 the building.”

         The GTF 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.”

         Agents 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.

         Agents 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.

         The 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.