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United States v. Bello

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 13, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PEDRO BELLO, CARIDAD BELLO, and JUAN HERNANDEZ, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Pedro Bello's motion to suppress [DN 69]; and Defendant Juan Hernandez's motion to adopt Co-Defendant's motion to suppress [DN 77]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendants Pedro Bello, Caridad Bello and Juan Hernandez were indicted on October 3, 2012 on five counts. The Superseding Indictment [DN 35], in Count 1, alleges that between April 5, 2007 and December 1, 2009, Defendants conspired to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1349. The United States contends that the purpose of the conspiracy was a scheme to defraud the Commonwealth of Kentucky of excise tax revenues through the use of a tobacco diversion invoicing scheme. According to the Superseding Indictment, the Defendants created the impression that a tobacco distributor company was purchasing cigarettes from GT Northeast of St. Louis, a non-licensed, out of state company that was operated by Defendants Caridad Bello and Juan Hernandez. In actuality, the tobacco distributor company's cigarette orders were being filled by GT Northeast located in Sellersburg, Indiana, and later Louisville, Kentucky, a Kentucky excise tax licensee, operated by Pedro Bello. Count 1 charges that the scheme permitted Defendant Pedro Bello to avoid paying approximately $2, 000, 000 in Kentucky excise taxes on the purchase of cigarettes valued at approximately $12, 500, 000.

Counts 2 through 5 of the Superseding Indictment charge the Defendants with money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). In connection with the conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the United States alleges that the Defendants conducted four wire transfers of funds from GT Northeast of St. Louis bank accounts to GT Northeast bank accounts.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendant Pedro Bello has filed a motion to suppress all fruits, items seized and evidence derived as a result of the searches at 2520 Ampere Drive, Jeffersontown, Kentucky pursuant to warrants issued December 7, 2009 and January 19, 2010. Defendant Juan Hernandez has also filed a motion to adopt Defendant Pedro Bello's motion to suppress arguing that all the arguments made by Bello are applicable to a search of Defendant Hernandez's business premises located at 1003 Hanley Industrial Court, St. Louis, Missouri.

A. Motion to Suppress Evidence from Search of 2520 Ampere Drive

The description of the property involved in the both search warrants of 2520 Ampere Drive describe the property as:

A large warehouse with a facade of glass, green siding and red/orange trim. The building's roof rises to a peak in the middle. The front of the building also has three main entry double doors covered by green sided awnings. The number "2520" is written in white lettering on the upper left corner of the front of the building (when facing the front). The rear of the building is accessible through the south side of the parking lot. The rear of the building has green siding similar to the front. It has loading docks and several garage style doors. The address of this location is 2520 Ampere Dr., Jeffersontown, KY, 40299.

Defendant Pedro Bello states that because of this description, the warrants provided only for a search of the warehouse, not the attached office space. Because a search of the attached office was outside the scope of the warrant, Defendant Pedro Bello argues that any documentation or information obtained from the office during the searches must be suppressed. Describing the building, Defendant Bello states that the offices are in the front of the building in question, with the warehouse in the rear, and the two areas are closed off and separate from one another. He contends that he has standing to object to a search of his office. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress, 6 [DN 69] (citing Macusi v. DeForte , 392 U.S. 364, 369 (1968))). Additionally, Defendant Bello states that the warrant and application do not set forth any violation of federal law and the Magistrate Judge erred in issuing the warrants.

In response, the government states that both search warrants included descriptions of the items that were to be searched, listing "[b]usiness and/or personal records of cigarette or tobacco product transactions and financial records and other records or documents reflecting diversion activity." (Exhibits 1 and 3 [DN 83].) A diagram of the building attached to a warrant is provided by the United States which included the office space. The government argues that the agents searched 2520 Ampere Drive within the search warrant, and the warehouse and the office were all part of the same building and business. (U.S. Response, 4 [DN 83] (citing United States v. Wright , 468 F.2d 1184 (6th Cir. 1972)).) Additionally, the government points to a Sixth Circuit case which "found that the search of an office area of a store was not improper, even though the office area was located at a different address than the store." (Id. [DN 83] (citing United States v. Lemmons , 527 F.3d 662 (6th Cir. 1975)).) The government states that the federal agents who searched 2520 Ampere Drive acted reasonably and with good faith in reliance of the warrant, and the evidence should not be excluded.

"The Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment categorically prohibits the issuance of any warrant except one particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.'" Maryland v. Garrison , 480 U.S. 79, 84 (1987). "[T]he Fourth Amendment safeguard is designed to require a description which particularly points to a definitely ascertainable place so as to exclude all others." Lemmons, 527 F.2d at 666. The Sixth Circuit has articulated that "the test for determining the sufficiency of the description of the place to be searched is whether the place to be searched is described with particularity as to enable the executing officer to locate and identify the premises with reasonable effort, and whether there is any reasonable probability that another premises might be mistakenly searched." United States v. Gahagan , 865 F.2d 1490, 1496 (6th Cir. 1989).

In support of his argument, Defendant Bello cites to United States v. King in which the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence found in the basement of a two-family dwelling in which the defendant lived. 227 F.3d 732 (6th Cir. 2000). In that case, the Sixth Circuit pointed out that "[f]or purposes of satisfying the Fourth Amendment, searching two or more apartments in the same building is no different than searching two or more completely separate houses." Id. at 750-51. The Sixth Circuit concluded that the basement was not the common area of the apartment ...


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