472 F.2d 982 (2nd Cir. 1973), 516, United States v. Doe

Docket Nº:516, 517, 72-2171, 72-2172.
Citation:472 F.2d 982
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. John DOE, a/k/a Francisco Rodriquez, a/k/a Juan Velez S., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:January 24, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Page 982

472 F.2d 982 (2nd Cir. 1973)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


John DOE, a/k/a Francisco Rodriquez, a/k/a Juan Velez S., Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 516, 517, 72-2171, 72-2172.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

January 24, 1973

Argued Jan. 12, 1973.

Certiorari Denied May 7, 1973.

See 93 S.Ct. 2160.

Thomas D. Clifford, Hartford, Conn., for defendant-appellant.

Andrew B. Bowman, Asst. U. S. Atty. (Stewart H. Jones, U. S. Atty., District of Connecticut, Bridgeport, Conn., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before LUMBARD, KAUFMAN and MANSFIELD, Circuit Judges.

Page 983

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge:

The principal issue on this appeal is the validity of a search by customs officials of a package mailed into this country from abroad. The defendant Francisco Rodriquez sought to suppress the seizure of a quantity of cocaine arising out of the search, contending that it violated both the Fourth Amendment's requirement of reasonableness and 19 U.S.C. § 482, which authorizes searches of "trunks or envelopes" when there is a "reasonable cause to suspect there is merchandise which was imported contrary to law." 1 Concluding that the instant customs search complied with both the constitutional and statutory standards and that the defendant's other contentions are without merit, we affirm the conviction on the merits.

Rodriquez, having waived trial by jury, was tried before the court on two consolidated indictments charging him with several substantive narcotics offenses and with conspiracy to commit certain of these offenses. 2 Judge Newman, in a memorandum decision, denied the motion to suppress and found the defendant guilty on the four remaining counts. 3

On April 11, 1972, James J. O'Keefe, an experienced United States mail entry aide working in Boston, opened a large package mailed from Pereira, Colombia and addressed to Juan Velez S., one of the aliases used by the defendant, 4 at an address in Bridgeport, Connecticut. O'Keefe testified that he opened the package because it was labelled "old clothing" and from his experience such labelling often belied the true contents-new clothing, subject to a duty. Such smuggling of dutiable merchandise is a federal crime, 18 U.S.C. § 545. Upon opening the package, he discovered, attached to the inside of the top of the package, a flat metal container filled with a white crystalline powder, later determined

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to be 1.1 pounds of 99% pure cocaine.

Under the direction of Customs Agent Haig M. Soghigian, one gram of the cocaine plus some innocuous white powder was placed into the metal container and reinserted into the package. On April 18, Agent Soghigian brought the package to the Bridgeport Post Office and a "Notice of Attempt to Deliver Mail" to the addressee, Juan Velez, was left at the hotel where he was registered. On April 24, the defendant appeared at the Post Office and claimed the package. A short time thereafter, customs agents arrested him as he was about to board a train to New York City. At trial there was proof that using various aliases he had successfully received packages mailed to him at other hotels, at least one from...

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