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United States of America v. Courtney Beckford

June 1, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COURTNEY BECKFORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

The instant action arises out of a multi-defendant indictment alleging that defendants conspired to obtain millions of dollars worth of wireless devices by defrauding AT&T, Inc. ("AT&T"), T-Mobile, USA ("T-Mobile"), and Asurion Protection Services, LLC ("Asurion"). The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349, 1341, 1343, and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028(A).

Defendant Malachi Burris moves to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to three court-authorized wiretaps of cellular phones owned by co-defendants. (See generally Def. Mot. to Supp., Doc. Entry No. 266.) On July 10, 2008, the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, authorized a wiretap for telephone number 347-851-0785, which was associated with a pre-paid mobile telephone used by co-defendant Marsha Motayne.*fn1 (See Motayne Wiretap, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 1.) The government supported its application with an affidavit from Christopher M. Stefanac, a Special Agent of the United States Secret Service ("U.S.S.S."). (See Stefanac Affidavit, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 1.) The government sought renewal of the Motayne Wiretap on August 14, 2008, which Judge Garaufis granted. (See Motayne Renewal Wiretap, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 2.) Special Agent Stefanac submitted an affidavit in support of the Motayne Renewal Wiretap application. (See Stefanac Renewal Affidavit, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 2.)

The government then requested what has been labeled a "spin off wiretap" on September 3, 2008, in which it sought, and Judge Garaufis granted, authorization to intercept communications over cellular telephones subscribed to by subject Moshe Beizem (primarily used by his son, co-defendant Gabe Beizem), co-defendant Rawl Davis, co-defendant Sonia Bowen (additionally used by co-defendant Rawl Davis), and co-defendant Courtney Beckford (the "Beckford Telephone"). (See Spin Off Wiretap, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 3.) Special Agent Stefanac submitted an affidavit in support of the government's application. (See Stefanac Spin Off Affidavit, Doc. Entry No. 305, Ex. 3.)

Defendant Malachi Burris also moves to suppress evidence obtained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") pursuant to a search of his luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK") on September 13, 2008. (Id.) His brother, co-defendant Samuel Burris, joins in the two suppression motions (see Samuel Burris Mot. to Supp., Doc. Entry No. 269). The government opposed defendants' motions in their entirety.*fn2 (See generally Gov't Opp., Doc. Entry No. 286.) For the reasons set forth below, the Burris defendants' motions to suppress are denied.*fn3

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this opinion, the following facts are considered undisputed by the parties,*fn4 and are taken from the Stefanac Affidavits unless otherwise noted.

I. The Wiretaps

In 2007, AT&T determined that fraudulently obtained cellular devices were being shipped to addresses within the Eastern District of New York. In October 2007, the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force ("NYECTF"), of which Special Agent Stefanac is a member, initiated an investigation into the conspiracy. NYECTF determined that the subjects*fn5 of the investigation had obtained unauthorized access to a customer database maintained by AT&T and had devised a fraud scheme whereby subjects used the customer database to add insurance to customer accounts. *fn6 (Stef. Aff. ¶ 20.) Co-defendant Motayne would contact AT&T's third- party insurance carrier, Asurion, to generate a fraudulent insurance claim and have a new cellular device mailed to an address of her selection. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 20.)

Typically, Asurion shipped the new cellular device via private express mail services including FedEx, DHL, or UPS. Individuals working with Motayne, such as co-defendant Lennox Lambert, approached the delivery drivers and offered them money in exchange for the packages containing the new cellular devices. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 22.) Drivers set the packages aside for Motayne and her associates, but electronically scanned the packages as "delivered" with delivery tracking equipment. (Id.) The government was able to confirm the delivery process (cash payments in exchange for packages) through two accomplice delivery drivers who became confidential informants, CI-1 and CI-2. (Stef. Aff. ¶¶ 16-17, 22.)

The confidential informants provided additional details of the conspiracy from the perspective of delivery drivers. For example, Motayne contacted CI-1 on a daily basis, informing CI-1 of the presence of fraudulent packages on CI-1's delivery route. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 23.) CI-1 then received a telephone call from Lambert to arrange a location to exchange the packages. (Id.) CI-1 received twenty to thirty dollars per confiscated cellular device and was paid in cash on a weekly basis. (Id.) Working in conjunction with CI-1, the NYECTF conducted surveillance of these exchanges on numerous occasions in 2007. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 24.) Immediately after two such exchanges, the NYECTF observed Lambert carrying the packages from CI-1 into Motayne's residence. (Stef. Aff. ¶¶ 25-27.) NYECTF also observed co-defendant Rawl Davis retrieve white envelopes from the mailbox outside of Motayne's residence. (Id.) CI-1 also made consensually recorded telephone calls to Motayne and Lambert, during which both defendants made incriminating statements. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 29.)

Finally, in connection with the Motayne Wiretap application, Special Agent Stefanac indicated that, after observing and approaching co-defendant William Perkins, co-defendant Perkins admitted complicity in the fraud scheme and confirmed the details of its operations as previously provided by other confidential informants. (Stef. Aff. ¶ 30.)

The government then sought renewal of the Motayne Wiretap and provided additional details as to the operation of the conspiracy. First, since the inception of the investigation, the conspiritors had obtained unauthorized access to T-Mobile customer accounts and were targeting both AT&T and T-Mobile. (Stef. Renewal Aff. ¶¶ 22, 24.) Second, the conspirators began procuring cellular devices through a second fraudulent method. In addition to filing false insurance claims, the conspirators began using their access to unauthorized customer information to add new telephone lines to existing customer accounts. In particular, Motayne contacted AT&T or T-Mobile pretending to be customers, and requested a change of address on the customer accounts and the addition of new telephone lines. (Stef. Renewal Aff. ¶ 24.) The conspirators then intercepted shipments of cellular devices associated with those new telephone lines through the same methods as they had in the past, i.e., bribing delivery drivers with cash in exchange for the fraudulent packages. (Stef. Renewal Aff. ¶¶ 22, 25.) The affidavit submitted in support of the wiretap application included excerpts of conversations recorded pursuant to the Motayne Wiretap corroborating the scheme. During these conversations, Motayne used confidential customer information and spoke in various accents and dialects to request (successfully and unsuccessfully) the addition of new telephone lines to the customer accounts. (Stef. Renewal Aff. ¶¶ 29-48.)

At the time it filed its Spin Off Wiretap application, the government had secured the services of yet a third delivery driver as a confidential informant, CI-3 (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 26), as well as further confirmation of the fraudulent delivery scheme from two additional delivery drivers (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 35). The investigation also had uncovered information that recently ordered cellular devices were being shipped to addresses directly associated with the subjects of the investigation, suggesting a decreased reliance on delivery drivers. (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 36.)

Further, AT&T identified Got Wireless, a company owned by co-defendant Gabe Beizem and his father, subject Moshe Beizem, as the location from which AT&T's security had been compromised and unauthorized access to customer account information had been procured. (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 33.) In fact, through its security technology, AT&T was able to link 617 fraudulent insurance claims and associated product shipments to just one of the breaches of access that it discovered at Got Wireless. (Id.) T-Mobile also identified Got Wireless as the source of breaches to its security and of information used to fraudulently procure cellular devices. (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 34.)

The investigators also determined that the conspiracy had broadened its geographic reach. In August 2008, the NYECTF conducted surveillance of the delivery of a fraudulently obtained package with a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania address. (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ¶ 40.) Once the NYECTF determined that the delivery driver had exchanged the package in the same manner as the other drivers, the investigators approached the driver. (Id.) The driver indicated that he had given the packages to an individual known as "G" and that he had been doing so for several weeks. (Id.) The driver provided NYECTF with the telephone number that he used to contact "G." (Id.) As set forth in the Stefanac Spin Off Affidavit:

A review of telephone calls made to and from this telephone number showed several calls to and from Samuel Burris at 640 E. 80th Street, Brooklyn, NY, an address associated with MALACHI BURRIS, one of the SUBJECTS of this investigation. We believe that Samuel Burris is an alias of MALACHI BURRIS.*fn7

(Id.)

Toll analysis indicated that the subjects were in frequent contact with each other during the period before the government sought the Spin Off Wiretap. (Stef. Spin Off Aff. ΒΆΒΆ 45-73.) The government also included excerpts of intercepted calls from the Montayne Renewal Wiretap corroborating the involvement of the various ...


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