United States District Court, Eastern District of New York
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
SANDRA L. TOWNES, United States District Judge.
Defendants, Angelo Rodriguez and Miguel Deasis, move, inter alia, to suppress certain items recovered from the vehicle which Mr. Deasis was driving and in which Mr. Rodriguez was the front seat passenger on the afternoon of November 14, 2012, as well as items recovered from their persons during this encounter. On September 5 and 12, 2014, this Court conducted a hearing with respect to defendants’ suppression motions at which the government called New York City Police Detective Alfred Hernandez as its sole witness. The defendants did not testify nor call any witnesses. The Court finds the testimony of Detective Hernandez to be entirely credible, convincing and uncontroverted. Upon consideration of the parties’ written submissions, including post-hearing supplemental briefing, as well as the hearing testimony and exhibits, the Court denied defendants’ motions to suppress the evidence in their entirety on November 14, 2014. This Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law follow.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Detective Hernandez is a twenty-eight year veteran of the New York City Police Department, and, for more than six years, he has been assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, investigators employed by the New York State Police and detectives and supervisors employed by the New York City Police Department. Members of the task force work in teams. Hernandez is assigned to Task Force Division Group number eleven (“Group T-11”).
On or near November 14, 2012, a confidential informant (“CI”) provided information to Group T-11 that an organization in Colombia, South America, was seeking to get proceeds from the sale of its narcotics in the United States transported to the owners of the drugs in Colombia. Prior to providing this information, the CI had provided reliable information about the laundering of drug money to South American countries. In this case, the CI supplied the telephone number, 917-573-4024 (“the target number”), of individuals in New York who had possession of narcotics proceeds awaiting transport to its owners in Colombia.
The telephone number was then given to a special agent working in an undercover capacity (“UC”) who has worked with Group T-11 in more than 50 money laundering investigations. The UC called the target number on the morning of November 14, 2012, at approximately 9 a.m. The UC, who speaks Spanish, reported to his supervisor that he spoke to a Hispanic male whom he believed was a Mexican national. This male informed the UC to contact a Dominican male at the target number later to discuss his pick-up of money in the afternoon. They agreed that the money would be delivered to the UC at around 2 p.m.
At approximately 1:15 that afternoon, the UC called the target number and a male the UC described as a Hispanic male of Dominican origin answered. At the suggestion of the UC, the speakers agreed that the money pick-up would occur at the K-Mart Shopping Center located at Bruckner Boulevard and White Plains Road, a location that covers several blocks and contains parking areas, numerous stores and restaurants on roads that cross with numerous exits and access to the Bruckner Expressway and the Cross Bronx Expressway. The speaker informed the UC that a person other than the speaker would be bringing the money to the UC. As with every conversation the UC had about the money pick-up, he relayed the sum and substance of his conversations to his supervisor at Group T-11.
Hernandez, and other members of Group T-11, set up in the K-Mart Shopping Center in an attempt to identify the person delivering the money before he met the UC. Some team members sat in parked vehicles while others drove around the lot with the flow of traffic. A member of the surveillance team, Special Agent Peter Feehan, relayed from his vehicle that he observed a male, later identified as Miguel Deasis, walking from a vehicle toward Radio Shack. He was carrying a gray Kohl’s shopping bag in which Feehan could see a yellow box on which there was a picture of a kitchen knife set. After Feehan reported that Deasis had entered the store, the surveillance supervisor radioed that the UC had just received a call from a third person, a second Dominican male, using the telephone with the target number who informed the UC that he was inside Radio Shack ready to make the delivery. The UC went to the Radio Shack, called the target number and told the individual he was in front of the store. At about 3:10 p.m., Hernandez observed Deasis exit and meet the UC outside in front of the store. They shook hands and had a brief conversation before Deasis handed the UC the gray Kohl’s shopping bag with the yellow box inside. The two then left in different directions. Deasis, carrying what appeared to be a cellphone, walked back to the parking lot and entered a 2010 gray Jeep Liberty with New York plate FZY 9804.
As Deasis drove away, some members of the surveillance team, including Hernandez, followed the vehicle out of the shopping center. Others followed the UC and met with him about the just-concluded transaction with Deasis. They also recovered and inspected the yellow box.
It contained $150, 000 in United States currency in three bundles of heat-sealed, vacuum-packed stacks of what appeared to be $50, 000 each.
Hernandez and other members of the team followed the Jeep Liberty that Deasis was driving until it made a left turn into the driveway at 249 Concord Road in Yonkers, New York, at approximately 4:10 p.m. Hernandez, alone in his vehicle, parked on the street in order to continue to watch that location using binoculars.
Within five minutes after Deasis entered the house at that location, the team was notified that the UC had received a call from the Mexican national to whom the UC had first spoken to set up the money deliveries that day. Using the telephone with the target number, the male informed that money was still being prepared and that there would be at least two more deliveries.
Approximately 35 minutes later, the UC relayed that he had received a second call from the Mexican national informing that the same individual, later identified as Deasis, would return to the same meeting place to drop off items to the UC. Shortly thereafter, Hernandez observed Deasis, along with another male later identified as Angelo Rodriguez, leave 249 Concord Road and approach the Jeep Liberty parked in the driveway. Deasis was carrying a white box that was approximately the same size as the yellow box he had dropped off earlier. Rodriguez was also carrying a white box, with some color to it, that was approximately the same size as the box that Deasis carried. Both men went to the vehicle’s passenger side door, opened it and then remained there for several minutes. Deasis, who no longer carried the white box, then went to the driver’s side and entered that door while the front passenger door remained open. Deasis exited the driver’s door and returned to the passenger side where he entered the vehicle but soon got back out. Both men, now empty handed, went back to the front of the house. They then returned to the vehicle accompanied by a third Hispanic male, later identified as Hector Gamez Parra, a Mexican national. All three men walked to the passenger side of the Jeep Liberty where they remained for a brief time. Gamez Parra then walked back towards the entrance of the house. Deasis entered the driver’s seat and Rodriguez was in the front passenger seat. Some members of the team were directed by the group supervisor to remain at the house while others, including Hernandez, were directed to follow Deasis and Rodriguez.
Team members followed the defendants until they were travelling on Bruckner Boulevard Expressway heading southbound in the direction of the K-Mart Shopping Center. The UC relayed that he was in contact with the target telephone and was informed that they were on their way to meet him, but they were stuck in traffic. Hernandez observed the Jeep Liberty exit from the Bruckner Expressway onto White Plains Road. The K-Mart ...