United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE (DKT.
S. Fischer, United States District Judge.
Ernest Armando Andujo moves to suppress evidence seized
during the search of his home on November 2, 2018, or in the
alternative, requests a Franks hearing. For the
reasons stated below, the Motion is DENIED.
Statement of Facts
David Clements has been a full-time police officer with the
Los Angeles Port Police (LAPP) since 2002. Dkt. 31-1,
Clements Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A (Clements Search Warrant and
Affidavit) at 6. In October 2018, he investigated allegations
of theft and damage to a vessel owned by alleged victim R.G.
(the Vessel). Id. at 7. Sergeant Clements
interviewed R.G. about the allegations and R.G. informed him
that he had hired Ernest Andujo to perform repairs on his
Vessel. Id. at 8. R.G. also stated that he gave Mr.
Andujo a key to access the Vessel when he was out of town
from October 16 to October 22. Id. When R.G.
returned from his trip, he noticed repair parts were missing
and the repairs were not finished. Id. He went to
Mr. Andujo's home to find out what happened. Mr. Andujo
stated that he had the parts inside his house and would
finish the repairs. Id. On October 26, R.G. picked
Mr. Andujo up from his home and brought him to the Vessel to
finish the repairs. Id. at 9. The two had a dispute
about their contractual arrangement regarding the repairs.
Id. After spending less than thirty minutes back on
the Vessel, R.G. discovered Mr. Andujo had left. Id.
He also discovered that parts, personal tools, and $500 in
cash were missing. Id. Later, R.G. noticed damage to
his engine room. Id.
informed Sergeant Clements that he believed Mr. Andujo was
responsible for the theft and damage to his Vessel. See
id. at 8-10. As part of the investigation, Sergeant
Clements walked through the Vessel, reviewed surveillance
footage, had a background search conducted on Mr. Andujo, and
had two civilian witnesses interviewed. Id. at 8-10;
13. He also asked R.G. to identify Mr. Andujo in a
photographic lineup, which R.G. did. Id. at 10.
After touring the Vessel, Sergeant Clements concluded that
due to the size of the Vessel, a theft could go unnoticed
despite R.G.'s presence during the theft. Id. at
11. He could not determine whether the Vessel had been
intentionally damaged. Id. Sergeant Clements
reviewed the surveillance footage, which did not have
recordings from October 16 through October 26. Id.
at 10. The footage showed Mr. Andujo boarding the Vessel on
October 16, , the date the system stopped
to R.G., the only other person with access to the Vessel
during the relevant time period was his longtime housekeeper,
Manuel Sanchez. Id. at 8. Mr. Sanchez stated that he
saw Mr. Andujo on the Vessel while R.G. was out of town but
did not report seeing any theft. Id. at 13. The
other witness interviewed was Reweis Saad, an acquaintance
R.G. had enlisted to review the surveillance video.
Id. When interviewed, Mr. Saad stated he owned an
audio video company and had twenty years of experience.
Id. He also stated that he believed there was
intentional tampering with the surveillance camera that
affected its ability to record. Id. He did not have
any information about the theft. Id.
background search revealed Mr. Andujo had one prior
conviction for grand theft involving parts entrusted to him
by an employer. Id. at 7. It also provided Mr.
Andujo's home address, which matched the address R.G. had
provided. Id. at 13.
October 31, Sergeant Clements sought a search warrant for Mr.
Andujo's home. Clements Decl. ¶ 3. On November 2,
Sergeant Clements executed the search warrant. Id.
¶ 4. As a result of the search of Mr. Andujo's home,
police discovered what the government contends are two
unlawful firearm suppressors and other items. Opp'n at 7.
Mr. Andujo seeks to suppress the items discovered in his
home, including the alleged firearm suppressors.
Fourth Amendment provides that “no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. There is no dispute that Mr. Andujo's
home was searched pursuant to a search warrant. Mr. Andujo
argues that the search of his home was unlawful because the
search warrant was not supported by probable cause. In the
alternative, he seeks a Franks hearing to challenge
alleged omissions and misrepresentations in the supporting
Court reviews “the issuance of a search warrant
deferentially, upholding it if the issuing judge ‘had a
substantial basis' for concluding [that] probable cause
existed based on the totality of circumstances.”
Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th
Cir. 2009) (alteration in original) (quoting Greenstreet
v. County of San Bernardino, 41 F.3d 1306, 1309 (9th
Cir. 1994)). “The probable cause standard for a search
warrant is whether, based on common sense considerations,
there was ‘a fair probability that contraband or
evidence of a crime [would] be found in a particular
place.'” United States v. Ruiz, 758 F.3d
1144, 1148 (9th Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (quoting
United States v. DeLeon, 979 F.2d 761, 764 (9th Cir.
1992)). “The magistrate judge need not determine
‘that the evidence is more likely than not to be found
where the search takes place'. . . . The magistrate need
only conclude that it would be reasonable to seek the
evidence in the place indicated in the affidavit.”
Id. (quoting United States v. Ocampo, 937
F.2d 485, 490 (9th Cir. 1991)).
Andujo asserts that the search warrant lacked probable cause
because it relied on uncorroborated self-serving claims by
R.G. who was in a contractual dispute with Mr. Andujo.
“[O]fficers may not solely rely on the claim of a
citizen witness that he was a victim of a crime, but must
independently investigate the basis of the witness'
knowledge or interview other witnesses.” Peng v.
Mei Chin Penghu, 335 F.3d 970, 978 (9th Cir. 2003)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Sergeant Clements independently investigated the basis of
R.G.'s knowledge and interviewed two other witnesses.
Sergeant Clements investigated the Vessel, and noted that due
to its size, items could be stolen from it without R.G.
noticing. Clements Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A at 11. That Sergeant
Clements could not immediately confirm whether the Vessel had
been vandalized does not mean R.G.'s allegation of
vandalism was not true. In addition, two civilian witnesses
confirmed statements made by R.G., such as his statements
that the video surveillance had been tampered with and that
Mr. Andujo was present on the Vessel during the time in
question. Id. at 13 Citizen witnesses are generally
presumed reliable. See Ewing, 588 F.3d at 1224.
Sergeant Clements reviewed the surveillance footage himself;
the equipment was not recording during the relevant time
period. Clements Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A at 10. Sergeant
Clements had also conducted a records check on Mr. ...