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United States v. Anguiano

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 11, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Rodolfo Anguiano, Jr., Defendant.

          David P. Steinkamp, Assistant United States Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Mark D. Nyvold, Esq., Fridley, MN on behalf of Defendant Rodolfo Anguiano, Jr.




         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge on remand from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue on remand is whether the police would have sought a search warrant for Defendant Rodolfo Anguiano Jr.'s (“Anguiano”) hotel room and a car in the hotel parking lot if an earlier unlawful search by the police had not occurred. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds the police would have sought a search warrant.

         II. BACKGROUND [1]

         On Friday May 5, 2017, Bloomington Police Officer Jacob Gruber (“Officer Gruber”) was patrolling a high crime area of the city when he saw a red Volkswagen Jetta with California license plates arrive at the Days Inn motel and leave ten minutes later. Hr'g Tr. [Docket Nos. 114, 115] at 34, 36-38, 41-42. Officer Gruber had seen the Jetta at the Days Inn the week before, and had learned from his routine checks that the vehicle's registration was expired and the registered owner, Elizabeth Sanchez, was not listed on the hotel roster. Id. at 38. When Officer Gruber observed the car on May 5, he again performed a vehicle registration check and confirmed the registration was still expired. Id. at 42. He followed the Jetta as it left the Days Inn parking lot and executed a traffic stop after seeing the car's tires cross over the lane divider. Id. at 42-43.

         Upon approaching the open driver's side window of the Jetta, Officer Gruber was struck by an “overwhelming” smell of air freshener coming from the car and saw a large number of dryer sheets spread over both the front and back floor. Id. at 46-47. Officer Gruber knew from his narcotics training that drug traffickers use dryer sheets to mask the odor of drugs to confuse drug-detecting dogs. Id. at 47-48. Anguiano, the car's sole occupant, told Officer Gruber the car had a leak and smelled like gas.

         Anguiano's drivers license was from California, which Officer Gruber knew to be a drug source state. Id. at 49, 54. Anguiano did not have proof of insurance or a title for the Jetta. Id. at 49-50. He told Officer Gruber he recently bought the vehicle at an auction and would be selling it in Minnesota and flying back to California on Monday. Anguiano also told Officer Gruber he had been in town for three days to attend his cousin's wedding that was taking place on Saturday. Id. at 50. He said he had initially been staying at the Days Inn but was now staying at the nearby Embassy Suites on American Boulevard. Id. at 50-51. When Officer Gruber told Anguiano he had seen the Jetta a week earlier, Anguiano explained that his cousin had driven the car to Minnesota and he had flown to Minnesota because he had to work. Id. at 51-52. Officer Gruber knew from his training that drug traffickers commonly pay another person to drive their “load” car to a location and then fly to the location to retake possession of the car. Id. at 52.

         Officer Gruber learned through dispatch that Anguiano had prior arrests for alien smuggling, controlled substance, and possession of pills. Id. at 52-53. He asked Anguiano if he had ever been arrested. Id. at 53. Anguiano initially responded that he had not been in trouble for drugs before, but then said he had been arrested for an offense involving diet pills. Id. at 53, 102. Anguiano's nervousness visibly increased as Officer Gruber's questions focused more on drug activity. Id. at 54. Officer Gruber concluded Anguiano was lying to him. Id. at 54-55.

         Anguiano declined to consent to a search of the Jetta, and a drug-detecting canine was called. Id. at 54. The canine showed interest in the car's undercarriage but did not positively alert to the presence of narcotics. Id. at 57. Officer Gruber decided to release Anguiano without giving him a ticket. Id. at 57-58.

         As Officer Gruber returned Anguiano's license to him, Anguiano opened his wallet and Officer Gruber then saw what appeared to be a Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) badge affixed to the inside flap of the wallet. Id. at 58-61. The wallet also held about a dozen plastic cards that Officer Gruber presumed to be credit cards. Id. at 59. Officer Gruber called his supervisor, Sergeant Cory Cardenas (“Sergeant Cardenas”) to discuss what he had seen. Id. at 63, 271, 273. Sergeant Cardenas contacted Officer Tom Maloney (“Officer Maloney”), a DEA task force officer with the Bloomington Police Department, to determine whether the DEA badge was genuine. Id. at 204, 206. Officer Maloney confirmed Anguiano was not a DEA agent. Id. at 206-07. Officer Maloney also told Sergeant Cardenas that information from the DEA's Intelligence Center in El Paso, Texas showed Anguiano had been arrested previously for alien smuggling and “some kind of drug case, ” and had traveled to or from Mexico approximately 20 times in the past couple of years. Id. at 208-10. Sergeant Cardenas then drove to the scene, where he and Officer Gruber arrested Anguiano for identity theft and obstructing legal process. Id. at 63, 115-16, 276.

         After Anguiano was arrested, the officers performed an inventory search of his car and found a satchel with an imitation DEA badge and imitation FBI badge, four $1, 000 bundles of cash, and credit cards with names other than Anguiano's. Id. at 64-65, 279. The interior of the Jetta appeared to have been altered because the dashboard was loose and came apart easily. Id. at 65, 279-80. No drugs or contraband were found in the vehicle. Id. at 65, 116-17.

         Officer Gruber and Sergeant Cardenas then drove to the Embassy Suites to further investigate their suspicions that Anguiano was engaged in drug trafficking. Id. at 131, 180-81. Sergeant Cardenas has testified that although the officers had no solid evidence to charge Anguiano with a drug related crime at this point, they remained suspicious because Anguiano had given inconsistent stories about how and why he had come Minnesota and had lied about his criminal history. Id. at 281, 338. As a result, they decided to do a “knock and talk” at Anguiano's hotel room to possibly develop probable cause through a consensual encounter with the person answering the door. Id. ...

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