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United States v. Alvarez-Carvajal

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 31, 2019




         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Suppress the Contents of Electronic Surveillance filed by Defendant Fernando Alvarez-Carvajal (Doc. 117). Alvarez-Carvajal seeks to suppress all wire, oral, or electronic communications in which he participated in, or which he was referred to directly or indirectly, from three phone numbers. He also seeks to suppress any GPS information for these phone numbers. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.


         In May 2016, FBI agents began investigating local drug sales in Alton, Illinois (Doc. 120-1). That investigation led to the identification of Defendant Edward Akwaboah as a supplier of crystal methamphetamine (Id.). In June 2018, a cooperating witness began working with police to make a series of recorded calls and text messages to Akwaboah (Id.). Through these communications, agents learned that Akwaboah was communicating with an unknown person regarding his own source of supply (Id.).

         On June 14, 2018, agents sought court authorization to tap Akwaboah's phone, (510) 302-5527, to identify Akwaboah's suppliers, the scope and structure of the drug trafficking organization, identities of other customers, and the location of stash houses, among other things. Now-retired Chief District Judge Michael J. Reagan authorized the wiretap (Doc. 120-3).

         During this first period of interception, agents were able to identify others involved in the drug trafficking organization supplying Akwaboah, including Jesus Alvarez-Duarte, Luis Alvarez-Duarte, and Defendant Fernando Alvarez-Carvajal (Doc. 119 at p. 3). Judge Reagan later authorized the continued wiretapping of Akwaboah's phone, as well as two phones used by Luis Alvarez-Duarte (Doc. 120-6). During this second period, agents monitored calls between Akwaboah and Jesus Alvarez-Duarte, who was using Mexico-based telephone number 52-6677679177 (Doc. 119 at pp. 3-4). On December 6, 2018, agents sought authority from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to tap Jesus Alvarez-Duarte's Mexican phone, and that authorization was granted by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton (Doc. 120-9). As a result of these wiretaps, Defendant Alvarez-Carvajal was intercepted on Akwaboah's phone, one of Luis Alvarez-Duarte's phones, and Jesus Alvarez-Duarte's phone.

         On December 11, 2018, the Grand Jury returned the indictment in this case charging Defendant Alvarez-Carvajal with conspiracy to distribute and possess, with the intent to distribute, methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance, and heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 846 (Doc. 1).

         On September 5, 2019, Defendant Alvarez-Carvajal filed the instant motion to suppress (Doc. 117). Defendant argues that the wiretaps should not have been authorized because agents did not meet their burden to prove the wiretaps were necessary and that the Government failed to minimize the interception of communications not otherwise subject to interception. As a result, he argues, the Court should suppress “all wire, oral, or electronic communications in which Alvarez-Carvajal and any other person or persons participated in, or in which Alvarez-Carvajal was referred to directly or indirectly, and all evidence derived from the information obtained from the electronically intercepted communications which has been in any manner used in obtaining the indictment against Alvarez-Carvajal.” (Id.). He also seeks to exclude any GPS information obtained from the three phones at issue (Id.).

         The Government responded on September 19, 2019, arguing that Defendant lacks standing to challenge any intercepted communications of which he was not a party, that the use of wiretaps was the only way that the investigation was reasonably likely to identify the group supplying Akwaboah and to gather evidence against them, and that the Government properly minimized the interception of communications unrelated to the investigation (Doc. 119).

         Evidentiary Hearing

         The Government asserts that Defendant's motion to suppress can be decided without an evidentiary hearing because Defendant has raised no significant factual dispute, nor has he challenged the veracity of the affidavits supporting the Government's wiretap applications. The Court agrees and finds that no hearing is necessary to dispose of the motion. See United States v. Villegas, 388 F.3d 317, 324 (7th Cir. 2004) (“Because the purpose of an evidentiary hearing is to resolve material factual disputes among the parties, a hearing is not required in the absence of such disputes.”).


         I. Standing

         As an initial matter, the Government argues that Defendant does not have standing to challenge any intercepted ...

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