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United States v. Vasquez

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

July 29, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT VASQUEZ, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KATHRYN H. VRATIL, District Judge.

A grand jury charged Robert Vasquez and some 50 other defendants with conspiracy to manufacture, to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base and to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine. See Second Superseding Indictment (Doc. #402), Counts 1. The grand jury also charged Vasquez with conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering. See id., Counts 2, 69, 73, 75. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion To Suppress The Fruits Of The Detention And Search That Occurred At W US54 MM 140, Pratt, Kansas On January 13, 2012 (Doc. #558) filed April 10, 2013. On July 16, 2013, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. For reasons stated below, the Court overrules defendant's motion.

Facts

Based on testimony and exhibits received at the hearing, the Court finds the following facts:

In October of 2010, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") initiated an investigation into the distribution of cocaine by an organization run by Djuane Sykes and his associates, a street gang in Kansas City, Kansas known as "Deuce Deuce." Special Agent Nicholas Wills and Task Force Officer Eric Jones led the investigation which involved the interception of 43 cellular telephones, including multiple roving Title III intercepts on Hector Aguilera. Based on the initial intercepts of three of Sykes' telephones, officers identified multiple layers of sources of cocaine, which was being funneled by various means from Mexico to the Kansas City metropolitan area. From June of 2011 through April of 2012, officers intercepted hundreds of calls.

On January 10, 2012, telephone intercepts revealed that in payment for a prior shipment of cocaine, Aguilera intended to send by tractor trailer a large amount of U.S. currency to a Mexican source or sources of supply. On January 12, 2012, investigators learned that the courier for the shipment of currency had arrived in Kansas City and that Aguilera intended to deliver more than $500, 000.00 to the courier the following morning.

On January 13, 2012, Aguilera arranged to meet the courier near Interstate 435 and exit 8B in Edwardsville, Kansas. Agents had set up surveillance at a Shell gas station near the location and they saw Aguilera and Gerardo Flores-Avila arrive at the gas station. While intercepting calls between Aguilera and another individual, agents followed Aguilera and Flores-Avila, who were traveling in a Dodge pickup truck, a short distance to Swift Trucking at 9000 Woodend Road, Edwardsville, Kansas. Aguilera talked to an unknown individual on the phone about meeting the courier. Agents then observed Robert Vasquez enter Aguilera's truck. After Aguilera drove a short distance in the parking lot, Vasquez got out of the truck and walked away carrying a black duffel bag. Vasquez then got into a Swift semi truck with a trailer and drove away from the lot. Immediately thereafter, Aguilera called an unknown individual and said that "It's been done, it's all good."

Vasquez drove southbound on I-435, then southbound on I-35 to Wichita, Kansas. DEA investigators in four or five vehicles maintained constant visual surveillance. When Vasquez traveled west out of Wichita on Highway 54, Officer Jones contacted the Kansas Highway Patrol and asked to have a trooper conduct a stop of defendant's vehicle. Officer Jones later gave Trooper Lee Rose a description of the semi truck including the unit number. Officer Jones told Trooper Rose to conduct a vehicle stop and also said that the driver was in possession of a black duffel bag which he believed contained currency.

At approximately 3:59 p.m., Trooper Rose observed Vasquez's truck on Highway 54 in Pratt County, Kansas and initiated a commercial vehicle safety inspection. Trooper Rose asked Vasquez for his driver's license and medical card. Vasquez produced a Texas driver's licence, his permit book, log book and medical card. Upon questioning, Vasquez explained that he was traveling from Edwardsville, Kansas to El Paso, Texas and that he did not have any shipping papers because his truck was empty. Trooper Rose thought it was unusual to travel such a long distance with an empty trailer. Because of safety concerns at the location of the stop on a two lane highway, Trooper Rose asked Vasquez to move his truck to a nearby truck stop to complete the safety inspection. Vasquez complied.

At the truck stop, Vasquez exited his truck and assisted in various aspects of the inspection. Trooper Rose completed a Level II inspection and found no violations. Trooper Rose also completed a Kansas Highway Patrol Driver/Vehicle Examination Report and ran routine checks through dispatch of defendant's driver's license and registration and the USDOT number associated with the truck. At the completion of the inspection, Trooper Rose returned all of the documents and gave defendant a copy of the examination report.[1]

Trooper Rose confirmed with Vasquez that he had all of his documents back in his possession. Trooper Rose told Vasquez to have a safe trip. Vasquez shook Trooper Rose's hand and thanked him. Trooper Rose turned and walked away. Some three or four seconds later, after Vasquez had climbed up to the cab and opened the door, Trooper Rose turned and asked defendant if he could ask a few more questions. Vasquez replied, "Yeah." Trooper Rose asked Vasquez about any illegal contraband in the truck such as guns, weapons, drugs or large amounts of money. Vasquez replied in a repetitive, "No.sir, " to each inquiry. Trooper Rose then asked Vasquez if he minded if he searched the truck and trailer. Vasquez replied "no, " that he did not mind if Trooper Rose searched the vehicle. Trooper Rose then asked Vasquez to step over to the front of his patrol vehicle and patted him down. Trooper Rose again asked Vasquez if he consented to a search of the truck and trailer and Vasquez replied, "Go ahead."

Trooper Rose searched the cab of the truck. Under the bed in the sleeper berth, he found a black duffel bag that contained wrapped bundles of what he believed to be U.S. currency. Agents later determined that the bag contained $549, 749.00 in U.S. currency. Upon discovery of the money in the duffel bag, Trooper Rose placed Vasquez in handcuffs. Trooper Rose advised Vasquez of his Miranda rights at 4:32 p.m.

Analysis

Defendant seeks to suppress evidence from the search of his vehicle and subsequent statements because officers did not have a sufficient ...


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