United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
E. MENDOZA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court on the Motion to Suppress (Doc.
141) and the supplement thereto (Doc. 160), which were filed
by Defendant Andrew Cassara, and which Defendant Juan Almeida
has adopted in part, (Doc. Nos. 157, 165, 179). The
Government filed a Response (Doc. 163), and an evidentiary
hearing was held on October 27, 2017, (Min. Entry, Doc. 168).
in this case have been charged with conspiracy to distribute
a controlled substance-marijuana-and Defendants Almeida and
Cassara have been charged with knowingly possessing a firearm
in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. (Indictment, Doc.
1, at 1-2). During its investigation, the Government executed
six search warrants-five property search warrants and one
vehicle tracking warrant. Defendants have now moved to
suppress the fruits of five of those searches, arguing that
there was not probable cause on the face of the affidavits in
support of the warrants and that the warrants contain
numerous material omissions and misleading facts. The
warrants were issued in succession, and each affidavit in
support of the warrants built upon information disclosed in
the previous affidavits. The specific facts of each search
warrant will be discussed below.
obtain a search warrant, law enforcement must “convince
the authorizing magistrate that probable cause exists for the
search.” United States v. Pendleton, 447 F.
App'x 978, 981 (11th Cir. 2011). “Probable cause to
support a search warrant exists when the totality of the
circumstances allow a conclusion that there is a fair
probability of finding contraband or evidence at a particular
location.” United States v. Brundidge, 170
F.3d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1999). “[P]robable cause is
a fluid concept-turning on the assessment of probabilities in
particular factual contexts-not readily, or even usefully,
reduced to a neat set of legal rules.” Illinois v.
Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 232 (1983). “[A]
magistrate's determination of probable cause should be
paid great deference by reviewing courts.”
Gates, 462 U.S. at 236 (quotation omitted).
“[a]ffidavits supporting warrants are presumptively
valid.” United States v. Lebowitz, 676 F.3d
1000, 1010 (11th Cir. 2012); see also Franks v.
Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171 (1978). “A defendant
may challenge the validity of the government's affidavit
by making a substantial preliminary showing that a false
statement was included in the warrant affidavit knowingly and
intentionally or with reckless disregard for the
truth.” United States v. Gamory, 635 F.3d 480,
490 (11th Cir. 2011). “In order to be entitled to
relief a defendant must show not only that misrepresentations
or omissions were intentionally or recklessly made, but also
that, absent those misrepresentations or omissions, probable
cause would have been lacking.” United States v.
Novaton, 271 F.3d 968, 987 (11th Cir. 2001).
first warrant was issued on February 10, 2015, and it
authorized the search of a specified storage unit located at
Vista Self Storage in Orlando, Florida (“Location
1”). The affidavit in support of the Location 1 search
warrant (“Affidavit 1, ” Joint Ex. 1) was
authored by Special Agent Joshua Baker, and it describes the
activities related to a suspected drug trafficking
organization (“DTO”) in Orlando, Florida,
operated by individuals that were from the Dominican
Republic. (See generally id.). The Drug Enforcement
Administration (“DEA”) suspected that Defendants
Cassara and Almeida were working with another individual,
Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido, who was located in South Africa,
to facilitate the DTO. (See Id. ¶¶ 1, 10).
DEA agents employed a confidential source (“CS”)
and two undercover agents-Leo Conde and Junny Valerio-to gain
information regarding the suspected DTO and Defendants.
(See Id. ¶¶ 10, 14).
Baker received information from a DEA Agent in Los Angeles,
California, that the CS had information about the DTO and
that the CS had been instructed by Yester-Garrido to travel
to Orlando. (Id. ¶ 10). On February 2, 2015,
the CS met with Agent Baker and another special agent and
informed them that he was to meet with two individuals
regarding a drug debt owed to Yester-Garrido. (Id.
¶ 11). The CS told the agents that his instructions from
Yester-Garrido were to re-establish a relationship with
“the Dominican DTO” because it owed
Yester-Garrido approximately $250, 000 for drugs that had
been delivered to the DTO but had not been paid for.
(Id. ¶¶ 13, 15). According to the CS, over
the previous five years-until the issue of the debt arose-the
Dominican DTO had purchased approximately 200 pounds of
marijuana per week from Yester-Garrido, paying him
approximately $800, 000 per month. (Id.).
same day, the CS and the Undercover Agents met with two
individuals as directed by Yester-Garrido-Defendant Cassara
and an unidentified individual referred to as
“UCC-1.” (Id. ¶ 14). During this
meeting, Cassara and UCC-1 discussed the drug debt and
re-establishing the relationship with the Dominican DTO.
(Id.). From there, all of the individuals at the
meeting drove to Sanford, Florida, to meet with a
representative of the DTO. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16).
There, they met with a Dominican individual named Jose
Quijada Garcia. (Id. ¶ 16). The CS told Quijada
Garcia that they were there as representatives of
Yester-Garrido to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement
and continue the relationship between the DTO and
Yester-Garrido. (Id.). No agreement was made at that
time, but Quijada Garcia and the CS agreed to continue
days later, on February 4, 2015, the CS and Undercover Agent
Valerio met with Defendants Cassara and Almeida.
(Id. ¶ 17). Almeida wanted to arrange another
meeting with Quijada Garcia, and Almeida suggested possible
terms of the debt repayment, which generally involved
charging the DTO a higher price per pound of marijuana and
using the additional money to pay off the debt.
(Id.). Two days after that meeting, on February 6,
2015, the CS and Undercover Agent Valerio again met with
Cassara and Almeida. (Id. ¶ 19). Cassara
relayed the details of a plan to sell the DTO twenty-five
pounds of marijuana for the higher price. (Id.).
Specifically, Cassara stated that on February 9, 2015, the CS
would meet Cassara with a white Dodge truck, Cassara would
then load twenty-five pounds of marijuana into the truck and
leave it in a then-undetermined location where a
representative from the DTO would pick it up and leave the
February 9, 2015, the CS and Undercover Agent Conde were
instructed by Yester-Garrido to meet with Quijada Garcia to
finalize the sale. (Id. ¶ 21). They did so, and
Quijada Garcia agreed with a few modifications.
(Id.). The transaction would occur on February 10,
2015, and the marijuana would be given on consignment with
payment being received later that same day. (Id.).
After the meeting with Quijada Garcia, the CS and Undercover
Agent Conde met with Cassara. (Id. ¶ 22).
Cassara stated that he would package the marijuana in a suit
case, place it in the back of the white Dodge pickup truck,
and leave the truck in the area of Semoran Boulevard in
Orlando, Florida. (Id.). The plan was for the DTO
representatives to retrieve the truck and return it later
with the money. (Id.).
upon leaving this meeting, Cassara drove to the Location 1
storage unit. (Id. ¶ 23). Special Agent Baker
and other law enforcement officers followed Cassara.
(Id.). After Cassara passed through the gate to the
storage unit property, Agent Baker went into the office and
spoke with the property manager. (Id.). The property
manager informed Agent Baker that Cassara had rented the
Location 1 unit, paying $600 cash for a one-month lease.
(Id.). In the office, Agent Baker was also able to
see the closed-circuit television (“CCTV”)
security monitors. (Id.). On the monitors, Agent
Baker observed Cassara drive his black Dodge pickup truck to