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United States of America v. Armen Kazarian et al

May 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul G. Gardephe, U.S.D.J.:


The Indictment in this case alleges that the twenty-eight named defendants were members of a racketeering organization that schemed to defraud Medicare of more than $100 million. In addition to RICO violations, the Indictment charges, inter alia, that the defendants conspired to commit health care fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and access device fraud.

Defendant Davit Mirzoyan has filed:

1. motions to suppress evidence obtained over court-authorized wiretaps (Dkt. Nos. 333, 336, 339);

2. motions to suppress evidence obtained through various physical searches; (Dkt. Nos. 342, 345, 348, 351, 354);

3. a motion to dismiss Counts Two through Six of the Indictment as multiplicitous (Dkt. No. 379);

4. a motion to dismiss the Indictment on the grounds that it does not provide sufficient notice (Dkt. No. 379);

5. a motion for a bill of particulars (Dkt. No. 327); and

6. a motion for severance based on alleged improper joinder of counts and parties (Dkt. No. 324).

The Court held a hearing on these motions on April 17, 2012 ("the April 17 hearing"). Having considered the parties' briefs, the oral argument at the April 17 hearing, and post-hearing submissions, the Court concludes that Mirzoyan's pre-trial motions should be denied in their entirety. *fn1



Mirzoyan argues that the wiretap evidence obtained through court-authorized wiretaps should be suppressed because (1) the judges issuing the wiretap orders lacked jurisdiction; (2) the Department of Justice official who approved the applications lacked the authority to do so; (3) the Government's wiretap applications were not supported by probable cause; (4) the Government's applications do not demonstrate the necessity for a wiretap; and (5) the Government failed to comply with statutory minimization requirements.

A.Applicable Law


An "aggrieved person" may seek to suppress communications intercepted by the Government. See 18 U.S.C. 2518(10)(a). Title III defines an "aggrieved person" as "a person who was a party to any intercepted wire, oral or electronic communication or a person against whom the interception was directed." 18 U.S.C. § 2510(11). The Government does not dispute that Mirzoyan has standing to move to suppress the wiretap evidence. (Gov't Br. at 12 (Dkt. No. 382))

2.Statutory Requirements for Authorizing Wiretap

In order to authorize the interception of oral communications under Title III, a court must determine that

(a) there is probable cause for belief that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a [crime enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2516];

(b) there is probable cause for belief that particular communications concerning that offense will be obtained through such interception;

(c) normal investigative procedures have been tried and have failed or reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous; [and]

(d) . . . there is probable cause for belief that the facilities from which, or the place where, the wire, oral, or electronic communications are to be intercepted are being used, or are about to be used, in connection with the commission of such offense. . ..

18 U.S.C. § 2518(3).

The statutory requirement that normal investigative techniques be addressed in wiretap applications "'is simply designed to assure that wiretapping is not resorted to in situations where traditional investigative techniques would suffice to expose the crime.'" United States v. Serrano, 450 F.Supp.2d , 236 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (quoting United States v. Kahn, 415 U.S. 143, 153 n.12 (1974). The legislative history accompanying Section 2518 indicates that "normal investigative techniques includes, for example, standard visual or aural surveillance techniques by law enforcement officers, general questioning or interrogation under an immunity grant, use of regular search warrants, and the infiltration of conspiratorial groups by undercover agents or informants.

S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in1968 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2112, 2190. Courts must take a "common sense approach" to the necessity requirement.

United States v. Concepcion, 579 F.3d 214, 218 (2d Cir. 2009). Although "generalized and conclusory statements that other investigative procedures would prove unsuccessful" do not suffice, "the Government is not required to exhaust all conceivable investigative techniques before resorting to electronic surveillance." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "'[T]he statute only requires that the agents inform the authorizing judicial officer of the nature and progress of the investigation and of the difficulties inherent in the use of normal law enforcement methods.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Diaz, 176 F.3d 52, 111 (2d Cir. 1999)). "[T]here is no requirement 'that any particular investigative procedures be exhausted before a wiretap may be authorized.'" United States v. Miller, 116 F.3d 641, 663 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v. Young, 822 F.2d 1234, 1237 (2d Cir. 1987) (internal citations omitted).

This Circuit has noted that wiretapping "'is particularly appropriate when the telephone is routinely relied on to conduct the criminal enterprise under investigation.'" United States v. Fleishman, No. 11 Cr. 32(JSR), 2011 WL 4000987, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2011) (quoting United States v. Steinberg, 525 F.2d 1126, 1131 (2d Cir. 1975) ("[T]he very scope of the operations described in the affidavit made it highly likely that numerous narcotics-related communications would take place in the future."). Where there is a conspiracy at work, the need for a wiretap may be compelling: "the clandestine nature of alleged conspiracies makes them relatively less susceptible to normal investigative techniques." United States v. Feola, 651 F. Supp. 1068, 1105 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), aff'd, 875 F.2d 857 (2d Cir. 1989).

Defendants bear the burden of proving that wiretap applications were in some manner deficient. United States v. Fea, No. 10 Cr. 708(PKC), 2011 WL 1346981, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5, 2011) (citing United States v. Magaddino, 496 F.2d 455, 459-60 (2d Cir. 1974) ("the 'burden is, of course, on the accused in the first instance to prove to the trial court's satisfaction that wire-tapping was unlawfully employed'").

B. Analysis


Mirzoyan argues that the wiretap evidence must be suppressed because the communications the Government sought authorization to intercept were not made in the Southern District of New York. According to Mirzoyan, Southern District judges thus lacked the jurisdiction to issue the wiretap orders. Mirzoyan contends that "Congress intended . . . jurisdiction for issuance of an interception order [to] be limited to phones located within the issuing court's jurisdiction at the time of the application. . . ." (Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 361) at 12; Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 361) 8-14).

Under Section 2518(3), a "judge may enter an ex parte order . . . authorizing or approving interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications within the territorial jurisdiction of the court in which the judge is sitting (and outside that jurisdiction but within the U.S. in the case of a mobile interception device authorized by a Federal court within such jurisdiction)." 18 U.S.C. § 2518(3). "Intercept" is defined as "the aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device." 18 U.S.C. § 2510(4).

In interpreting this statutory definition, the Second Circuit has held that "a communication is intercepted not only where the tapped telephone is located, but also where the contents of the redirected communication are first to be heard." United States v. Rodriguez, 968 F.2d 130, 136 (2d Cir. 1992). Accordingly, a "federal court sitting in the jurisdiction in which the to-be-tapped telephone is located would have the authority, under § 2518(3), to authorize a wiretap[on that telephone]," and a district judge sitting in the jurisdiction where "the redirected contents are first heard" likewise has authority to authorize the interception of those communications. Rodriguez, 968 F.2d at 136; United States v. Bernardino, No. 07 Cr. 151(PKC), 2007 WL 4462176, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2007).

Here, district judges sitting in the Southern District of New York authorized the wiretaps at issue. (Gov't Br. at 2 n.3, 4 n.6, 5 n.7 and 10 n.9) Each wiretap application submitted by the Government represented to the issuing judge that intercepted communications would in all instances be first heard by agents located in this District. See, e.g., 9/2/09 Terdjanian Application at 022462; 11/3/09 Mirzoyan Application at 020298; 6/28/10 Yepiskopyan Application at 022912. There is no allegation that the Government varied from this representation in practice. Therefore, under Rodriguez, the jurisdictional requirement of Section 2518(3) is satisfied because the intercepted calls were "first heard" in the Southern District of New York.

Mirzoyan argues that Rodriguez can be distinguished because here there are no "factual underpinnings" connecting the wiretaps applications to New York. (Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 274) at 19) Mirzoyan's attempts to distinguish Rodriguez are unavailing. There is no indication in that case that its holding depends on such "factual underpinnings." See Rodriguez, 968 F.2d at 136. Instead, the Rodriguez court's holding concerning the meaning of "intercept" turns on its analysis of the text, legislative history, and policy considerations underlying 18 U.S.C § 2510(4) and Title III more generally. See id. at 135-36. The Rodriguez court anticipated cases in which the Government would "seek [as here] to tap telephones in more than one jurisdiction and to monitor them in a single jurisdiction," and determined that "there are sound policy reasons for permitting a court in the jurisdiction where all of the captured conversations are to be heard to grant the authorization." Id. at 136.

Mirzoyan has cited no case that calls the Rodriguez holding into question. Indeed, courts in this Circuit have repeatedly relied on Rodriguez in cases indistinguishable from the instant case. See, e.g., United States v. Goodwin, 131 F.3d 132, at *2 (2d Cir. 1997) (summary order) ("Telephone communications are deemed intercepted at two places: where the tapped telephone is located and where the communications are overheard. . . . The FBI agents overheard the conversations while in the Northern District of Georgia, and the calls were therefore intercepted within that jurisdiction for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 2518(3)."); United States v. Rodriguez, No. 08 CR 1311(RPP), 2009 WL 2569116, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2009) ("Defendants do not challenge the assertion that the calls were routed to an Arizona location where they were intercepted and recorded. Under existing case law, this is sufficient to demonstrate that the calls were 'intercepted' within Arizona, thereby giving the Arizona court jurisdiction to issue the wiretap."); United States v. Bernardino, No. 07 Cr. 151(PKC), 2007 WL 4462176, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2007) (court where the calls are first listened to and recorded has jurisdiction to authorize their interception); United States v. Gotti, 42 F.Supp.2d 252, 286 (S.D.N.Y.1999) (same).*fn2

United States v. Archer, 486 F.2d 670 (2d Cir. 1973) and its progeny, cited by Mirzoyan, are not to the contrary. In Archer, the Government attempted to create federal jurisdiction over a local crime by initiating interstate telephone calls with the defendants. Here, the interstate nature of the charged conspiracies is obvious, as is the utilization of instruments of interstate commerce in furtherance of the alleged conspiracies. Accordingly, Archer is inapposite.

Because the intercepted conversations were to be, and were, first listened to in this District, judges sitting in this District were authorized to issue the wiretap orders at issue.

2.Delegation of Authority

Mirzoyan argues that Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorneys General who approved the Government's wiretap applications lacked the authority to do so under 18 U.S.C. § 2516(1) because they were not "specially designated" by name to do so by the Attorney General. (Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 338) at 10; Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 341) at 17-18; Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 335) at 17-19)

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2516(1), the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General, any acting Assistant Attorney General, or any Deputy Assistant Attorney General or acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division or National Security Division specially designated by the Attorney General, may authorize an application to a Federal judge of competent jurisdiction for . . . an order authorizing or approving the interception of wire or oral communications. . . . 18 U.S.C. § 2516(1) (emphasis added).

Here, each wiretap application cited Attorney General Order No. 3055-2009, in which the Attorney General authorized "any Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division" to approve Title III wiretap applications. (See, e.g., 4/21/10 Mirzoyan Application, Ex. A; 6/28/10 Yepiskoposyan Application, Ex. A) In accordance with that order, every wiretap application in this investigation was approved by a Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division.

The Second Circuit has rejected the argument that Section 2516(1) requires the Attorney General to "specially designate" a Deputy Assistant Attorney General by name. In United States v. Nanfro, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General approved a wiretap application pursuant to Attorney General Order No. 1348-89, which states that "'any Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division'" may authorize a Title III wiretap application.

Nanfro, 64 F.3d 98, 100 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Attorney General Order No. 1348-89). The Second Circuit held that this order authorizes Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorneys General to approve Title III wiretap applications, even though the order does not list Deputy Assistant Attorneys General by name. Id. at 99-100. The Court reasoned that, "had Congress intended that Deputy Assistant Attorneys General be designated by name rather than by position, it would have written that requirement into the text." Id. at 100 (citing United States v. Citro, 938 F.2d 1431, 1435-36 (1st Cir. 1991) ("Section 2516(1) does not state that the Attorney General must designate officials by name. Identification by position is entirely consistent with the legislative history, which indicates that the purpose of the statute was to ensure that intrusive electronic eavesdropping be authorized only by a limited group of responsible federal officials. The statute requires that each of the officials be able to trace his or her explicit authority, by designation, to the Attorney General, an official who, by virtue of presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, is publicly responsible and subject to the political process.")). Accordingly, under Section 2516(1), it is sufficient for the Attorney General to designate a class of individuals who are authorized to approve wiretap applications; the Attorney General need not list those individuals by name. See also United States v. Rodriguez, 2009 WL 2569116, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). Accordingly, the Deputy Assistant Attorneys General who approved the wiretap applications here were fully authorized to do so.

3.Probable Cause

Mirzoyan also contends that certain of the Government's wiretap applications were not supported by sufficient probable cause.*fn3

(a)Legal Standard

"Probable cause to support a wiretap order exists when the facts made known to the issuing court are sufficient to warrant a prudent man [or woman] in believing that evidence of a crime could be obtained through the use of electronic surveillance." Fea, 2011 WL 1346981, at *4 (citing United States v. Ruggiero, 824 F. Supp. 379, 398 (S.D.N.Y.1993). In making this determination, courts apply a "totality of the circumstances" analysis. Id. (citing Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983)). Agents may "draw on their own experience and specialized training to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative information available to ...

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