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United States v. Soto

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 13, 2017

United States of America
v.
Valentin Delo Perez Soto Opinion No. 2017 DNH 009

          ORDER

          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge

         On November 2, 2015, the New Hampshire State Police executed a search warrant on an apartment in Manchester linked to the defendant, FNU LNU (First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown). Although the search warrant authorized the seizure of various documents and other evidence related to identity fraud, the officers found a large quantity of what looked like heroin and other drugs in the apartment.

         The defendant is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). He moves to suppress all evidence seized during the search of his apartment. The government objects. On December 15, 2016, the court held an evidentiary hearing on this motion. For the reasons that follow, the court denies the motion.

         Background

         In the fall of 2015, New Hampshire State Police Trooper James G. O'Leary began investigating Apartment 402 at 138 Pearl Street in Manchester, New Hampshire (“Apartment 402”). Trooper O'Leary had received information from the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) that the DMV suspected a person of using fraudulent documents to obtain a New Hampshire driver's license. The documents referenced Apartment 402 as the person's address.

         Trooper O'Leary's investigation more than confirmed the DMV's suspicions. He identified an individual claiming to be Miguel Angel Sanchez Caraballo as the person who had obtained a driver's license using Apartment 402 as his address. Trooper O'Leary also determined that, in March 1996, a person using the Sanchez Caraballo identity had been convicted in this court for passport fraud.[1] The photograph used in the false passport application matched the photograph on the driver's license that the DMV recently issued to the person claiming to be Sanchez Caraballo. A criminal record check revealed, that in June 2015, the Manchester Police had arrested a person claiming to be Sanchez Caraballo on prostitution-related charges. The photograph attached to that police report matched the photographs on the driver's license and passport application.

         Additionally, fingerprints taken from the person arrested on the prostitution charge matched the fingerprints of the person who had previously been convicted of passport fraud.

         Based on his investigation, Trooper O'Leary concluded that in 2015, the defendant had fraudulently used the Sanchez Caraballo identity to apply for a driver's license and two temporary vehicle registrations. Trooper O'Leary also determined that the defendant was the person previously convicted of passport fraud for using the Sanchez Caraballo identity.

         On October 28, 2015, Trooper O'Leary applied for a warrant to search Apartment 402. Trooper O'Leary attached to his application an affidavit detailing his investigation. New Hampshire Circuit Court Judge Gerald J. Boyle reviewed the application and found probable cause to believe that Apartment 402 contained evidence of the crimes of Tampering with Public Records or Information in violation of N.H. RSA 641:7 and Identity Fraud in violation of N.H. RSA 638:26. Judge Boyle issued a warrant authorizing the search of Apartment 402 for a detailed list of items potentially related to those crimes (“Boyle Warrant”).[2]

         On November 2, 2015, Trooper O'Leary, Sergeant Andrew Player, Trooper First Class Shane Larkin, and New Hampshire Probation and Parole Officer Mark O'Donoghue entered Apartment 402 to execute the Boyle Warrant. At that time, the New Hampshire State Police Narcotics and Investigations Unit and FBI Gang Task Force were investigating the defendant for drug-related activity, but that investigation was unrelated to the November 2 search of Apartment 402.[3] At the time of the November 2 search, Trooper Larkin was a member of the Narcotics and Investigations Unit and Gang Task Force, and Officer O'Donoghue was working with the Gang Task Force.

         During the initial search, the officers found certain items they believed were evidence of drug crimes, including a scale, a large knife, and several cell phones. Inside the defendant's sock drawer, Trooper Larkin also found $40, 000 in cash wrapped in four separate bundles. After finding those items, the officers stopped the search and Trooper O'Leary applied for a warrant to search the apartment for illegal drugs and evidence of drug crimes. New Hampshire Circuit Court Judge William Lyons denied the warrant for lack of probable cause, and the officers subsequently resumed their search for evidence of identity fraud.

         Upon resuming the search, Trooper Larkin opened a kitchen cabinet next to the oven. The cabinet looked like a storage area for plastic shopping bags. Trooper Larkin removed some of the plastic shopping bags and found a small box inside one of the bags. The box contained what appeared to be the following: 55 fingers (10 grams) of heroin wrapped in green cellophane; five plastic bags containing cocaine; a plastic bag containing blue pills; and a small amount of marijuana. After discovering these drugs, the officers once again stopped their search and applied for another warrant. Judge Lyons approved the application and issued the requested warrant (“Lyons Warrant”). The Lyons Warrant authorized the officers to search Apartment 402 for illegal drugs and other evidence of drug trafficking. After continuing their search under the combined authority of the Boyle and Lyons Warrants, the officers found additional evidence of both identity fraud and drug crimes.

         Discussion

         The defendant moves to suppress all evidence seized from Apartment 402 (doc. no. 15). The defendant contends that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because (1) the Boyle Warrant was overbroad, and (2) the officers ...


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