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United States of America v. Fernando Duarte Medrano

January 6, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
FERNANDO DUARTE MEDRANO



REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS STATEMENT

This matter having been referred by the Honorable Richard A. Schell, the Court has considered Defendant's Amended Motion to Suppress (Warrant and Statements) (Dkt. 150). After considering the evidence presented and the arguments of counsel at the hearing held on January 5, 2012, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.

Defendant Fernando Duarte Medrano is charged in this matter with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). In his motion, Defendant seeks to suppress all evidence and statements resulting from the search of his residence on December 7, 2010. Defendant argues that there was not sufficient probable cause to support the search warrant which uncovered, among other things, over $1 million in currency, 353 pounds of marijuana, and 13 firearms.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant indicates that, after receiving a drug trafficking tip regarding a residence in Dallas, federal agents conducted surveillance on the residence and conducted two "trash runs" of large plastic trash cans outside of the residence. During the search of the first trash bags recovered, the agents discovered, among other things, torn pieces of paper with various denominations written in ink, miscellaneous aluminum and plastic wrappings, numerous rubber bands, electrical tape, an unknown grease substance, and various documents bearing the names of Marbeth Medrano and Fernando Medrano and the address of the reported drug trafficking, 10901 Mandalay Drive. During the second search of the trash retrieved on a different day, agents again found torn pieces of paper with hand-written denominations (totaling thousands of dollars), a bag containing numerous rubber bands, plastic wrapping and aluminum foil, and a green leafy substance which tested positive as marijuana. According to the search warrant affiant, based on his experience in law enforcement, such materials were consistent with the packaging and trafficking of drugs. See Dkt. 150-1.

Defendant alleges that the information provided in the affidavit regarding the anonymous tip and the contents of the trash bag was insufficient to form probable cause. Defendant specifically alleges that the only contraband found was the marijuana found during the second trash run and that a single trash run is an insufficient basis to form probable cause of drug dealing. Defendant additionally seeks to suppress the statements he provided to law enforcement after he was arrested during the execution of the search warrant.

EVIDENCE PRESENTED

At the hearing, the Government offered the testimony of Joe Mata, an agent with the D.E.A., and the affiant for the search warrant at issue. Mata testified that he has been involved in more than 500 drug investigations during his career and that he has been the affiant for more than 100 search warrant affidavits. Mata testified about the investigation leading up to the identification of Defendant's residence as a place of narcotics distribution and described the "trash runs" conducted on the residence.

Mata explained what contraband he discovered during the two separate trash runs, how he linked the trash to Defendant's residence, and the basis for preparing the search warrant affidavit. Mata testified that he discovered plastic casings, vacuum seal bags, multicolored rubber bands, green saran wrap with a greasy substance, and other materials commonly used to package kilo quantities of cocaine. According to Mata, the greasy substance is commonly used to mask the odor of cocaine and the rubber bands are commonly used to bundle money. Mata also testified about the small pieces of paper with denominations written on them, including a note reading "Meno Segoville $37,000." According to Mata, he linked the trash bags to Defendant's residence because he found receipts with name Fernando Medrano and Marbeth Medrano and a piece of mail with Defendant's residence's address on it. Mata further testified that during the second trash run, he observed many of the same materials as before. He testified that agents also found tin foil with marijuana residue and a green leafy substance which field tested positive for marijuana. At the hearing, the Government offered into evidence photographs of some of the items recovered from the trash runs.

Mata testified that, because various items in the trash indicated drug trafficking activity, he believed that there was sufficient probable cause to seek the search warrant. Mata stated that no statements in the affidavit were made in an attempt to mislead the state magistrate who issued the warrant. Mata further testified that he believed in good faith that the search warrant was valid when issued.

Upon execution of the warrant, Defendant was arrested and questioned. Mata stated that he read Defendant his Miranda rights in Spanish. Mata testified that he read from a pre-printed card and asked Defendant whether he understood his rights. All conversations with Defendant were in Spanish, and Defendant did not ask for a lawyer during their 20 minute post-Miranda conversation at the residence.

Defendant offered no witnesses or evidence at ...


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