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United States v. Forget

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 16, 2019


          OPINION AND ORDER [1]


         Before the Court is Defendant Jeffrey Forget's Amended Motion to Suppress (Doc. 43) and the Government's opposition (Doc. 46). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 25, 2019, at which Forget was present and represented by counsel. It took the motion under advisement. The Court now denies Forget's motion.


         At the hearing, three witnesses testified: Detective Michael Holmberg of the Naples Police Department (“NPD”), Detective Tony Davenport of the NPD, and Nicholas Cronin. The evidence introduced included two outstanding arrest warrants for Forget, the NPD's dispatch notes for the incident, the NPD's Standard Operating Procedures for Property and Evidence, an NPD Property Receipt, two Driver and Vehicle Identifications, and pictures from the traffic stop. Based on all the evidence, the Court makes these findings of fact material to Forget's motion:

         On October 10, 2018, Detectives Holmberg and Davenport were surveying the Naples Inn because its off-season room prices attract illegal activity. The detectives spotted Forget and Cronin leaving the parking lot in Cronin's red pickup truck. Forget was carrying a black backpack. When they returned, the detectives ran Cronin's license plate and learned it was registered in Fort Myers.

         Detectives Holmberg and Davenport again saw Forget, Cronin, and a third guy leave the Naples Inn's parking lot that day. Forget got into the front passenger seat of Cronin's truck. He had the backpack and placed it between his legs on the floor. Cronin drove and the third guy rode in the backseat. Although suitcases and bags were in the truck's bed, neither the detectives nor Cronin testified to seeing Forget carrying or loading them.

         When Cronin drove away, Detectives Holmberg and Davenport followed in unmarked cars. Detective Davenport pulled next to the truck's passenger side and saw Forget was not wearing a seatbelt. Detective Davenport reported to dispatch the seatbelt violation and the truck's license plate number. He then initiated a traffic stop around 1:00 p.m. Detective Holmberg heard the dispatch call and arrived on scene within a minute.

         Detective Davenport approached the driver's window, requested everyone's identification, and asked to search the truck. Cronin did not consent to the search, [2] but he and the backseat passenger provided identification. Forget did not. Almost simultaneously, Detective Holmberg arrived at the passenger's side door and asked Forget his name, birthdate, and social security number. Forget said his name was “Jason Farber”[3] and gave a birthdate. He said that he did not know his social security number and lost his wallet. Detective Holmberg recognized prison tattoos on Forget's arms and asked him if he had been arrested or in prison. Forget said no.

         Detective Holmberg returned to his police car. At 1:07 p.m., he asked dispatch to pull records for “Jason Farber” and send a K9 unit. About three minutes later, Detective Holmberg had Jason Farber's picture from NPD's database. The picture did not match Forget. Further, Farber lived on Florida's east coast. Because Detective Holmberg needed Forget's identity to write the seatbelt ticket-and Forget kept claiming to be “Jason Farber”-Detective Holmberg requested a biometric fingerprint scanner, better known as a “rapid ID.” This device uses a person's fingerprint to retrieve warrants, arrest records, and other identification documents. Because NPD's rapid ID was broken, the detectives asked the Collier County Sherriff Office for its device. Collier County's rapid ID arrived on scene around 1:30 p.m. It identified Forget by his true name and retrieved two outstanding arrests warrants (federal and state). Forget was arrested and handcuffed. They searched his person, which included his wallet. And the K9 unit was cancelled.

         After Forget's arrest, Detective Holmberg asked Cronin about the backpack in the truck. Cronin testified he told the detective that he wanted nothing to do with it and refused to take it. Detective Holmberg then searched the backpack, finding counterfeit money with the same serial number. They also searched the suitcases in the truck's bed which had counterfeit bills and paraphernalia. The detectives created a property receipt, which Forget signed. (Gov't Ex. 5).

         A federal grand jury has indicted Forget for making and possessing counterfeit money in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 471 and 472. (Doc. 1). Forget moved to suppress the evidence found during the search, which the Court denied without prejudice because he did not establish standing. (Doc. 37; Doc. 40). Forget then filed the pending amended motion.


         Forget initially sought to suppress several pieces of evidence in his wallet, the backpack, and suitcases from the truck. (Doc. 43). By the end of the hearing, however, Forget conceded the search of his wallet was a proper search incident to arrest and he lacked standing to challenge the search of the suitcases. Forget's concessions (supported by the evidence) leave three issues: (1) whether Forget had standing to suppress the backpack, (2) whether the stop was unreasonably prolonged, and (3) whether the search of the backpack was reasonable. The Court will address each issue in turn.

         1. ...

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