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United States v. Rodriguez-Serna

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MANUEL AGUSTIN RODRIGUEZ-SERNA Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM Q. HAYES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The matter before the Court is the motion to suppress fruits of illegal wiretap or in the alternative for a Franks hearing filed by Defendant. (ECF No. 40).

         BACKGROUND FACTS

         Beginning in 2017, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents began an investigation into a suspected drug trafficking and money laundering organization operating in Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States. The investigators obtained the initial authorization to intercept a Blackberry PIN in February 2017.

         In July 2017, agents identified screen name “RITA” who interceptions revealed coordinated movement of narcotics proceeds from the United States. Wiretaps identified Defendant as an associate of RITA.

         On September 12, 2017, investigators requested initial authorization from the federal district court to intercept electronic communications, internet traffic, and electronic mail communications going to a particular Blackberry device assigned PIN 86218EB with no known subscriber under the screen name JAVIER MECANICO (“TBB#11"). (Ex. 3 at 5). The application and attached affidavit detailed the goals of the investigation and the investigative efforts to date. The application included technical details regarding the interceptions and specified that monitoring would occur in the Southern District of California. The application detailed minimization procedures that would be used and that communications not pertinent to the investigation would not be shared with the investigative team.

         On September 13, 2017, United States District Court Judge John Houston issued an order granting the Title III wiretap application and authorizing the interception of electronic communications of TBB#11, for a period of 30 days.

         On November 7, 2017, Judge Houston granted a new Title III application to intercept TBB#23, Screen Name “Caterpila, ” believed to be used by the Defendant, for a period of 30 days.

         On December 20, 2017, Judge Houston granted a new Title III application to intercept TBB#25, Screen Name “Caterpilarr, ” believed to be used by the Defendant, for a period of 30 days.

         On January 31, 2018, Judge Houston granted a new Title III application to intercept TBB#26, Screen Name “La Barca, ” believed to be used by the Defendant, for a period of 30 days.

         On March 26, 2018, Judge Houston granted a new Title III application to intercept TBB#35, Screen Name “Charro, ” believed to be used by the Defendant, for a period of 30 days.

         Each application included a probable cause statement, including relevant images intercepted. Each application detailed the progress of the investigation and addressed the necessity of the continuing interceptions to meet the goals of the investigation.

         On April 18, 2018, all interceptions of Defendant ceased.

         On August 22, 2018, an indictment was returned charging Defendant with international conspiracy to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 853.

         On November 15, 2018, Defendant was arrested in Arizona and transferred to the Imperial County Jail in El Centro, California. Defendant was arraigned by the United States Magistrate Judge and entered a plea of not guilty.

         On May 28, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to suppress wiretap evidence, or in the alternative, for a Franks[1] hearing.

         CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Defendant contends that the act of interception, the acquisition of communications contemporaneously with transmission in violation of the Wiretap Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq., occurred in this case. Defendant asserts that the interception of his private text communications are subject to the statutory suppression contemplated by the Wiretap Act. Defendant asserts that the affidavits in support of the applications do not establish necessity as required by 18 U.S.C. § 2518(1)(c), and that the United States failed to comply with the minimization requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 2518(5). Defendant further contends that the applications fail to establish probable cause to believe that he was engaged in conduct that violated the laws of the United States. Finally, Defendant contends that the interceptions of communications outside of the United States exceeded judicial authority under the Wiretap Act.

         The Government contends that each application and order complied with the requirements of the Wiretap Act. The Government further contends that the remedy of exclusion for a violation of the Wiretap Act is not authorized for electronic communications. The Government asserts that Defendant may seek suppression of electronic communications in this case based solely upon his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Government asserts that the affidavits established probable cause and complied with all requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The Government further contends that all electronic ...


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