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United States v. Carrera

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

December 4, 2017




         Law enforcement officers, who were working with a confidential source, believed that a shipment of cocaine would be arriving in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on April 17, 2017, and that the Defendant, Luis Carrera, would be the person delivering those drugs. After conducting a traffic stop, officers indeed recovered cocaine from a vehicle in which the Defendant was a passenger on that date.

         A grand jury indicted the Defendant of knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). On May 10, 2017, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Suppress Evidence [ECF No. 23], seeking to dismiss the criminal complaint against him or to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the search of the vehicle, or during any subsequent custodial interrogation. Upon referral from this Court, Magistrate Judge Susan L. Collins held an evidentiary hearings on June 16, 2017, received post-hearing briefing, and issued a Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 36], recommending that the Court deny the Defendant's Motion. On November 14, 2017, the Defendant filed his Objection to Magistrate's Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 37].


         The following facts are supported by this Court's independent review of the hearing testimony and exhibits.

         On April 17, 2017, Detective Gerardot conducted a traffic stop of the Defendant's vehicle. The stop was part of an ongoing drug investigation that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was conducting. DEA Task Force Officer (TFO) Peter Mooney had been receiving information from a confidential source who was facing federal drug charges. In December 2016, the source told TFO Mooney that he could receive a large amount of narcotics from a person in Hammond, Indiana. The source began exchanging voice calls and texts with this individual to arrange for the delivery. TFO Mooney monitored these calls and texts. Based on his training and experience, TFO Mooney believed that the individual was using the word “Cadillac” to refer to a kilogram of cocaine, and that when the Cadillac was “ready, ” the negotiated price of “34” meant $34, 000. This price was within the range for the current market price for a kilogram of cocaine. By April 17, 2017, TFO Mooney knew that the individual from Hammond was Luis Carrera, the Defendant in this case. TFO Mooney believed that the Defendant and the source had arranged for the Defendant to come to Fort Wayne on April 17, 2017, to deliver the drugs to the source at the car lot where the source was employed.

         On April 17, TFO Mooney and other members of the DEA held a briefing with respect to the Defendant's expected delivery of drugs and the source's receipt of them. The source was fitted with a monitoring and recording device. Although the plan was for the Defendant to meet the source at the car lot, the DEA advised that it would allow the source to lead the Defendant away from the lot before having a uniformed officer and K-9 unit conduct a traffic stop. This was intended to prevent the Defendant from discovering that the source was working with law enforcement.

         After the DEA briefing, the source waited at the car lot for the Defendant. Through the listening device, TFO Mooney could hear events as they transpired. Additionally, undercover agents were conducting visual surveillance in the area. When the Defendant arrived, the source texted TFO Mooney that the Defendant had arrived in a black Saab. However, when the Defendant made contact with the source, he showed the source to a different car. The source is heard on the recording asking the Defendant, “you got it on you?” The Defendant responded, “yeah, in the oil” and the source made a comment about it being “hidden.” (Gov't Ex. 3.)[1] The source then told the Defendant to follow him. After the source was inside his own car, TFO Mooney called the source and asked if the drugs were in the white car. The source advised TFO Mooney that he saw it inside of an oil container in the back seat. TFO Mooney, in turn, relayed this information to the surveillance team, including Detective Gerardot.

         When the source left the lot, the Defendant, who was accompanied by two other individuals, followed in a white Honda. Police surveillance was maintained on both vehicles. When TFO Mooney heard over the radio from one of the undercover officers who was conducting surveillance that the Defendant committed a speeding violation, he authorized uniformed officers to make a stop. Detective Gerardot stopped the vehicle. His discovery of cocaine inside the vehicle led to the Defendant's indictment for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B), a magistrate judge does not have authority to issue a final order on a motion to suppress evidence in a criminal case. Instead, the magistrate judge submits proposed findings of fact and recommendations to the district court. If a party files a timely objection to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, § 636(b)(1) provides that

the district judge is to make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. The court may accept, reject, modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge also may receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

         Portions of a recommendation to which no party objects are reviewed for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         A. Reliance on ...

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