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United States v. Carranza

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

September 10, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
JUAN CARRANZA, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          SUSAN M. BAZIS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 39). A hearing on the motion was held on August 6, 2019. A transcript of the proceedings was filed on August 13, 2019 (Filing No. 53). This matter is now ripe for disposition.

         For the reasons explained below, the undersigned will recommend that the motion be denied.

         FACTS

         Jarrett Swearingen (“Agent Swearingen”) testified at the evidentiary hearing held in this case. Agent Swearingen is a Special Agent with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”). (TR. 5.) Agent Swearingen has been with the DEA for approximately two-and-a-half years. (TR. 21.) Before joining the DEA, Agent Swearingen was with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office in Pensacola, Florida. (TR. 21.)

         In February, 2019, investigators received information from a confidential source that Jose Miaranda-Funes (“Miaranda”) was distributing methamphetamine in Omaha, Nebraska. (TR. 4.) Miaranda is the co-defendant in this case. On February 20, 2019, investigators, using a confidential source, were able to introduce an undercover officer to Miaranda in order to purchase a pound of methamphetamine. (TR. 4.) At the time the undercover officer purchased the methamphetamine, investigators did not know where Miaranda was obtaining the drugs. (TR. 5.) Agent Swearingen testified that investigators suspected that Miaranda was obtaining the methamphetamine from a third-party because it is unusual for methamphetamine to be produced locally. (TR. 26-27.) Agent Swearingen testified that, based on his experience, a lot of methamphetamine comes from Mexico because it is difficult to get pseudoephedrine in the United States. (TR. 26-27.) Agent Swearingen testified that Miaranda was not arrested after the initial undercover purchase because investigators were trying to identify the source of Miaranda's supply. (TR. 26.)

         On May 8, 2019, the confidential source informed investigators that he had driven Miaranda and Defendant to Motel 89 where the confidential source believed they obtained methamphetamine. (TR. 6.) The undercover officer contacted Miaranda on the evening of May 8, 2019 to purchase another pound of methamphetamine. (TR. 6; Ex. 1 and 2.) Miaranda told the undercover officer that he would have to “call his guy” and agreed to meet the undercover officer the next morning between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. at the Family Fare in Omaha, Nebraska. (TR. 6-7; TR. 11; Ex. 2.) Agent Swearingen testified that he believed Miaranda's comment that he needed to “call his guy” meant that Miaranda did not actually possess the methamphetamine and would need to get it from someone else. (TR. 7.)

         On the morning of May 9, 2019, investigators began surveilling Miaranda. (TR. 7.) Agent Swearingen was conducting surveillance outside of Miaranda's shop. (TR. 7.) Once investigators had surveillance in place, the undercover officer called Miaranda and told him that he was getting close to Omaha and would arrive in about ten minutes. (TR. 7; Ex. 2.) This call occurred at approximately 9:07 a.m. (TR. 7.) At around, 9:22 a.m., Miaranda left his shop and started heading towards the Family Fare. (TR. 7.) Once he left, Miaranda circled back through the neighborhood and went back to his shop. (TR. 8.) There, investigators observed Miaranda open the hood of his truck for a few minutes, and then leave his shop again. (TR. 8.)

         Miaranda then traveled to Motel 89, which investigators had previously identified as Defendant's possible residence. (TR. 8.) Agent Swearingen testified that, based on what the confidential source told him and the undercover officer's telephone conversation with Miaranda in which Miaranda referenced “his guy, ” he believed Miaranda went to Motel 89 to contact Defendant. (TR. 27-28.) Motel 89 is located a couple of miles from Miaranda's shop. (TR. 8.) When he got to Motel 89, Miaranda was not observed leaving his vehicle. (TR. 8.) Agent Swearingen testified that investigators did not have any information that Miaranda communicated with anyone at Motel 89. (TR. 24.) Miaranda stayed at Motel 89 for a couple minutes, and then drove to a QuikTrip located about a quarter-of-a-mile from where he was supposed to meet the undercover officer. (TR. 8-9.)

         Miaranda arrived at the QuikTrip just after 10:00 a.m. (TR. 9-10.) Miaranda entered the QuikTrip for a few minutes, came out, and got back in his truck. (TR. 9.) Miaranda sat in his truck for a few more minutes, and then was observed moving the truck and getting gas. (TR. 9.) Once he finished putting gas in his truck, he got back in his truck and investigators observed him texting someone. (TR. 9.) Agent Swearingen testified that Miaranda's behavior suggested to investigators that Miaranda still did not have the drugs with him. (TR. 10.)

         While he was at the QuikTrip, the undercover officer attempted to contact Miaranda by phone call and text message. (TR. 10.) The undercover officer's text messages to Miaranda told Miaranda to hurry-up and inquired how much longer it would be before Miaranda arrived at the Family Fare. (TR. 10.) Agent Swearingen testified that the purpose of these texts and calls was to determine whether Miaranda was coming to the Family Fare to deliver the methamphetamine. (TR. 10.) Miaranda responded to the undercover officer via text stating, “10, 15 Mi, ” which investigators interpreted as meaning that Miaranda would meet the undercover officer in ten to fifteen minutes. (TR. 11; TR. 20; Ex. 1) Agent Swearingen testified that investigators believed Miaranda was waiting for someone to bring him methamphetamine so he could complete the transaction with the undercover officer. (TR. 20.)

         After approximately an hour, investigators observed an individual who was driving a silver vehicle contact Miaranda at the QuikTrip. (TR. 9-11.) Miaranda moved his truck closer to the road, parked it, and got into the silver vehicle. (TR. 11.) Investigators later identified Defendant as the driver of the silver vehicle. (TR. 11.) Miaranda and Defendant then drove to the Family Fare. (TR. 11.) Once they pulled into the Family Fare and parked, the undercover officer received a text message from Miaranda saying, “I'm here.” (TR. 12; Ex. 1.)

         Task Force Officer Vaughn (“Officer Vaughn”) made contact with the silver vehicle at the Family Fare. (TR. 12.) All investigators involved, including Officer Vaughn, had been briefed on the operation. (TR. 12.) Officer Vaughn was present the entire time of the operation. (TR. 12.) Agent Swearingen testified that when Officer Vaughn approached the vehicle, Miaranda and Defendant were texting on their phones. (TR. 12.) Agent Swearingen stated that Officer Vaughn asked Miaranda to place his hands on the steering wheel and directed Defendant to place his hands on the dash of the vehicle. (TR. 12.) According to Agent Swearingen, Defendant was not compliant with Officer Vaughn's commands. (TR. 12.) Defendant continued to text on his phone and kept reaching around in the vehicle. (TR. 12.) Officer Vaughn then asked Miaranda and Defendant to exit the vehicle. (TR. 12.) Agent Swearingen initially testified that Miaranda and Defendant were detained at the time they exited the vehicle. (TR. 12.) Agent Swearingen testified on cross-examination that they were actually under arrest at that point. (TR. 25.)

         The silver vehicle was then searched by officers. (TR. 13.) Officers did not seek consent to search.[1] (TR. 25.) One pound of methamphetamine was found inside the vehicle in a black, square case.[2] (TR. 13.) A smaller amount of methamphetamine was found on Defendant's person. (TR. 13.) Agent ...


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