759 F.2d 1558 (11th Cir. 1985), 84-5174, United States v. Milian-Rodriguez

Docket Nº:84-5174.
Citation:759 F.2d 1558
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Ramon MILIAN-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellee,
Case Date:May 13, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1558

759 F.2d 1558 (11th Cir. 1985)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Ramon MILIAN-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellee,

No. 84-5174.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

May 13, 1985

Page 1559

Stanley Marcus, U.S. Atty., Stephen Schlessinger, Linda Collins Hertz, Asst. U.S. Attys., Miami, Fla., for plaintiff-appellant.

Barbakoff & Schwartz, Fred A. Schwartz, Miami, Fla., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Page 1560

Before FAY and JOHNSON, Circuit Judges, and DYER, Senior Circuit judge.

JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:

In this case, the government appeals from the suppression of evidence, including drugs and firearms, which was to be used in the prosecution of Ramon Milian-Rodriguez for drug and currency violations. Because we conclude that the relevant searches were conducted pursuant to probable cause, exigent circumstances, or the broad-ranging consent of a suspect who hoped to strike a deal with the government, we reverse.


Beginning in November 1982, agents in Operation Greenback, a Miami-based federal task force investigating currency violations, received information from law enforcement authorities that Ramon Milian-Rodrigeuz (hereinafter "Milian") was travelling periodically to Panama with extremely large sums of United States currency. A record check revealed that neither Currency Transaction Reports nor Currency and Monetary Instrument Reports had been filed as required, either by Milian or Cambios Monetarious Internacional, the Panamanian currency exchange with which he was associated. Accordingly, Milian was placed under scrutiny.

On two occasions in April 1983, law enforcement agents observed the loading of suspicious cargo aboard Milian's Lear Jet, which was bound for Panama. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") subsequently confirmed that the cargo contained United States currency, as to which none of the required reports had been filed. In May 4, 1983, law enforcement agents, having been informed that Milian would be making another trip to Panama, saw his jet being loaded in the same manner they had observed the previous month. Once again, no currency reports had been filed. On this occasion, the jet was stopped, passengers and crew were removed and the cabin was searched. The search revealed $5,447,949 in United States currency stowed within the cabin. Milian's attache case, also on the plane, contained detailed records relating to his money-smuggling activities and documenting the transportation to Panama of approximately $146 million between August 1982 and April 1983. These items were subsequently taken to the downtown Miami office of Operation Greenback.

While this search was underway, Milian was taken to an office located in the airport complex. He was told that he would be detained during the search, but that he was not under arrest. During this time Milian stated to a law enforcement officer that he wished to speak with the agent in charge. Arrangements were made for the ranking officers of the Customs Service on the scene to speak with Milian in a room at the airport leased by Milian's company, Consolidated Courier Service. Before entering this room, Milian executed a form giving the agents general authorization to search those premises.

When the Customs officers arrived, Milian informed them that "they didn't know what they had here." He boasted that he was the most sophisticated suspect with whom they had ever come in contact, and that he could provide them with a rare "opportunity" to survey the workings of an international narcotics and currency-laundering network. Anticipating an inculpatory statement, the Customs officers summoned the Assistant United States Attorney assigned to Operation Greenback and read Milian his rights. Milian stated that he had foreseen his eventual apprehension and had determined that when the day came he would offer his full cooperation. He stated to the assembled officials that he would provide information on the full range of criminal activities in which he had been involved if the government would not file criminal charges and would protect his anonymity as an informant. The agents explained to Milian that they lacked the authority to enter into any agreement, but that the government would consider his offer if the information he could provide was of "great interest." The law enforcement officials informed Milian that he was free to go, but he expressed his eagerness

Page 1561

to accompany them to the office of Operation Greenback.

After arriving at Operation Greenback, Milian executed a written consent authorizing the search of his business premises at 2852 Shipping Avenue. This form stated, inter alia, "These (officers or agents) are authorized by me to take from my premises any letters, papers, materials or other property which they desire." There was no discussion of any spatial limitations on the search. After several hours of discussion concerning the currency-smuggling operations with which Milian was involved, IRS Special Agent Raul de Armas asked to speak with Milian about currency laundering in general and three individuals who were under investigation for participation in laundering activities. Milian indicated that these individuals were drug dealers and clients of his, and he provided some details on the methods he used to launder funds. But he declined to give Armas further details pending a decision on his offer of cooperation.

At approximately 7 p.m., when this discussion had concluded, Milian volunteered to accompany the agents who were to conduct the search of his business premises. Following their arrival, the agents surveyed the premises to determine how long the search would take, and subsequently began in Milian's office. Milian was in all respects cooperative, retrieving files relating to those individuals about whom he had been questioned by Armas and assisting the officials in locating any documents they wished to see. The agents began to photocopy the files, and when this proved too slow...

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