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United States v. Carter

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 13, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN CARTER (6), Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM Q. HAYES United States District Judge.

         The matter before the Court is the motion to suppress fruits of illegal stop and seizure, and motion to suppress statements for Miranda violation filed by Defendant Benjamin Carter. (ECF No. 109).

         BACKGROUND FACTS

         Beginning in November 2016, federal agents investigating a narcotics importation and distribution organization began intercepting the BlackBerry Messenger (“BBM”) communications of “PELON, ” subsequently identified as Modesto PAYAN-Moreno. PAYAN used BBM communications to coordinate the movement of narcotics proceeds with his associates. One of PAYAN's associates was identified by the BBM screenname “BMW.”

         In April 2017, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in Calexico, CA obtained authorization to intercept BBM communication between PAYAN and BMW. The investigation revealed that BMW regularly coordinated the movement of both narcotics and proceeds with an individual known by the BBM screenname “LA PANCHA.” At the time agents applied for the June 20, 2017 wiretap, it was believed that BMW was directly involved in coordinating the transportation of narcotics (specifically, methamphetamine) and narcotics proceeds. Agents continued to investigate in order to identify additional individuals involved in narcotics trafficking.

         On July 7, 2017, agents began intercepting conversations between BMW and La Pancha involving a movement of money. On July 10, 2017, BMW sent phone number 951-743-8424 to La Pancha with the name “Joan.” La Pancha immediately responded “There will be some more today so they can bring down more paper. I hope some170.” The agents continued to intercept conversations between BMW and La Pancha discussing the transaction.

         Based on the July 10, 2017 interceptions, Calexico HSI Special Agent Ainslie contacted Torrance Police Detective Daniel Cid to request assistance in the investigations and specifically to identify the owner of the 951-743-8424 phone number. Detective Cid applied for a warrant through Los Angeles County to obtain GPS pings on the 951-743-8424 phone (“the 951 phone”). On July 10, 2017, a Magistrate Judge at the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a warrant to obtain GPS pings on the 951 phone. Detective Cid began monitoring the GPS pings. BBM interceptions later that same day indicated that $200, 000 in proceeds would be transported the following day before noon.

         On July 11, 2017, at approximately 6:45 a.m., Detective Cid and his surveillance team started physical surveillance at the location of the pings for the 951 phone, an apartment complex at 10244 Arrow Route, Rancho Cucamonga, California. The goal of the surveillance team was to locate the owner of the 951 phone. While conducting surveillance Detective Cid noticed a few cars leaving the complex, including a white sedan. Shortly thereafter, Detective Cid noticed that the GPS ping for the 951phone was no longer at the apartment complex. The next ping was centered at the Golden Oak Park parking lot with a 9 meter accuracy. Detective Cid and his surveillance team went to the park. There was one vehicle parked in the parking lot and a few people playing soccer. Detective Cid believed that the vehicle, a white Chevrolet sedan, may have been one that he saw leave the apartment complex. Detective Cid noted that the location of the white Chevrolet, whose driver was later identified as the Defendant, was consistent with the ping data. The surveillance team continued to followed the white Chevrolet. The pings continued to correlate with the location of the white Chevrolet.

         At approximately 7:44 a.m., Torrence Police Detective Norris, part of the surveillance team, observed the white Chevrolet pull into a Chevron gas station in Fontana, CA. Detective Norris was parked at a pump at the gas station when he saw the white Chevrolet under surveillance alongside him on the other side of the same gas pump. Detective Norris recognized the car and driver as the same vehicle and person under surveillance. Detective Norris saw a silver Nissan sedan pull into the gas station with a female driver and a male passenger in the front seat. Detective Norris saw Defendant exit the white Chevrolet and converse with the two occupants of the silver Nissan near the pumps. During the conversation, Detective Norris saw the trunk of the Nissan open and then close quickly. Both occupants of the Nissan returned to their vehicle empty handed and Defendant left in his vehicle. Detective Norris concluded that an illicit transaction had taken place at the gas station based on his training and experience as a narcotics detective and the totality of the circumstances. Detective Norris communicated his observations to his team on the radio. Detectives continued their surveillance of Defendant and the white Chevrolet as the vehicle exited the gas station.

         At approximately 8:13 a.m., on July 11, 2017, BBM interceptions between BMW and LA PANCHA indicated that a transfer of narcotics proceeds had been successfully conducted. See Exhibit 11 (“The money thing is done, dude. 195.”).

         Investigators continued surveillance on the white Chevrolet as it traveled to a second gas station, a car wash, and eventually back to the apartment complex located at 10244 Arrow Route. The pings on the 951 phone continued to correlate with the location of the white Chevrolet. Defendant exited the Chevrolet with a backpack and box and entered one of the apartments in the building.

         Agents observed a female-later identified as Patricia Clavel-drive away in the Chevrolet carrying a backpack. Detective Norris requested that California Highway Patrol (CHP) stop Clavel in the Chevrolet to see if she was the courier of narcotics proceeds. CHP Officer Bostrom conducted a stop of the Chevrolet and Clavel. During the stop of Clavel, Defendant came to the scene of the stop and made contact with a different officer at the scene. Clavel was given a ticket and left the scene. Surveillance continued on the Defendant.

         Based upon the ping data and surveillance, Detective Cid was certain that Defendant was the user of the 951 number. Later in the afternoon, detectives observed Defendant exit the apartment wearing a different backpack, enter a white Nissan Versa, and depart the apartment complex. Detective Cid updated Agent Ainslie. Detective Cid asked Detective Norris to obtain a black and white patrol unit to effect a traffic stop. Detective Norris contacted CHP Officer Bostrom. Detective Norris provided Officer Bostrom with the license plate and the location of the car and “asked him to . . . come up with his own probable cause to stop the car and conduct his investigation.” (ECF No. 224 at 96).

         At approximately 1:50 p.m., CHP Officer Bostrom conducted a traffic stop of Defendant and the white Nissan based his observation of “speed as well as light out.” Id. at 117. Officer Bostrom asked Defendant to get out of the vehicle and asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle. Defendant responded that there was “an abundance of cash” and that Officer Bostrom could not search the vehicle. Id. at 119. Officer Bostrom deployed a canine which alerted to the vehicle and the backpack located on the front passenger seat. Officer Bostrom searched the vehicle and found a ...


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