275 F.3d 627 (7th Cir. 2001), 00-2828, United States v. Felix-Felix

Docket Nº:00-2828, 00-2865
Citation:275 F.3d 627
Party Name:United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Francisco Felix-Felix and Guadalupe Felix-Felix, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:December 27, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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275 F.3d 627 (7th Cir. 2001)

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Francisco Felix-Felix and Guadalupe Felix-Felix, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 00-2828, 00-2865

In the United States Court of Appeals, For the Seventh Circuit

December 27, 2001

Argued March 29, 2001

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 CR 219--Ann Claire Williams, Judge, and Joan B. Gottschall, Judge.

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Kevin Powers (argued), Office or U.S. Atty., Chicago, IL, for U.S.

Mark H. Kusuatzk (argued), Northfield, IL, for Francisco Felix-Felix.

Michael B. Cohen (argued), Chicago, IL, for Guadalupe Felix-Felix.

Before Easterbrook, Rovner, and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judge.

Francisco Felix-Felix and Guadalupe Felix-Felix were cousins with too much in common. Both were caught with substantial amounts of cocaine, and both pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Each plea agreement reserved the defendant's right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress statements made to the police during questioning, as well as the actual cocaine the police found. Because we believe that these statements and searches were consistent with Fourth Amendment standards, we affirm the district court's denial of the suppression motions. We also find no error in the sentencing of Francisco Felix-Felix, and we therefore affirm both judgments.

I

In September 1997, DEA agents conducting surveillance of a known center for drug transactions in Cicero, Illinois, observed Guadalupe and Francisco making calls from pay phones and conducting brief meetings with other individuals in and around that area. At one point, the agents followed the two Felix-Felixes to an apartment in Cicero, where the officers asked for and received consent from Guadalupe and Francisco to search the premises. Two handguns and $6,100 in cash, which the agents seized, turned up as a result of the search. They made no arrests at the time, and the September 1997 event is not at issue in this case.

Several weeks later, agents observed Guadalupe and Francisco at a currency exchange and followed them to a house at 211 Vintage Road in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. A few months later, on April 1, 1998, they followed their lead on the house and interviewed some of the neighbors. Their interlocutors confirmed that Guadalupe and Francisco frequented the Buffalo Grove residence. The neighbors also mentioned that they rarely saw Guadalupe and Francisco outside the home, but they often saw them driving in and out of the garage in a white Jeep.

At about 1:45 p.m. the next day, DEA agents conducting surveillance of the Buffalo Grove residence saw Guadalupe leave the garage driving a rented maroon van. The agents also saw a parked white Jeep Wrangler inside the garage. Agents followed the maroon van to a McDonald's fast food restaurant in Hickory Hills, Illinois. While they watched, Guadalupe exited the van, went inside to have a meal, walked to a nearby pay phone, and placed several calls. He waited by the telephone until a man, later identified as Eduardo Vargas, approached and looked inside the van. Vargas spotted Guadalupe, walked to the pay phone, and shook hands with him. Vargas then climbed into the van alone, and drove it about a mile away, as agents followed. Without making any stops, Vargas

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returned to the McDonald's parking lot and placed a telephone call from the same pay phone.

In the meantime, DEA agents had continued surveillance of Guadalupe, who had left the McDonald's and walked to a nearby Walgreen's drug store. After Vargas used the pay phone, Guadalupe left the drug store and met Vargas at the McDonald's. The two then left the McDonald's together and hurriedly walked to the rear of the building. As they walked away from the McDonald's, Guadalupe bent down and placed the van keys on the ground.

After a glance through the van windows revealed a black suitcase and a box for a measuring scale, the agents approached the two men, who by this time had walked into a residential neighborhood south of the shopping center, and asked them if the van belonged to one of them. Initial ly, they both denied ownership, but after further questioning, Guadalupe admitted that he had been driving the van earlier that day. Agents then brought Guadalupe and Vargas back to the McDonald's restaurant. Guadalupe took the agents to the parking lot area where he had placed the keys to the van on the ground, and he gave the keys to the agents. At some point, either before or after returning to the parking lot, Guadalupe gave the agents written consent, in Spanish, to search the van.

The police conducted their search with the help of a drug-sniffing dog. As soon as the dog jumped into the back of the van, he provided a positive alert for the presence of drugs in the box and the suitcase. He was right: a search of the box and the suitcase revealed 50 kilograms of cocaine (confirmed by a field test). The agents then informed Guadalupe and Vargas of their Miranda rights and formally arrested them.

After Guadalupe's arrest, DEA agents returned to the house in Buffalo Grove and recommenced their surveillance while they waited for a search warrant. At approximately 9:15 p.m., agents observed Francisco pull into the subdivision driving a white Jeep like the one the agents observed earlier in the garage. When Francisco turned into his cul-de-sac and saw the agents' cars, he sped past the agents and did not stop at the house. They pursued him until he was forced to stop at a dead-end street. The agents ap proached Francisco and asked him, in Spanish, why he was driving in the area and why he did not pull into the garage of the house. He gave some evasive answers, but before too long he signed a written consent...

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