968 F.2d 101 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-2143, United States v. Maldonado-Espinosa

Docket Nº:91-2143.
Citation:968 F.2d 101
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Appellee, v. Jose MALDONADO-ESPINOSA and Carmen Maldonado-Espinosa, Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:June 30, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 101

968 F.2d 101 (1st Cir. 1992)



Jose MALDONADO-ESPINOSA and Carmen Maldonado-Espinosa,

Defendants, Appellants.

No. 91-2143.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 30, 1992

Heard March 5, 1992.

Juan R. Acevedo Cruz, Hato Rey, P.R., for defendant, appellant Jose Maldonado-Espinosa.

Francisco Acevedo Padilla, Guaynabo, P.R., on brief, for defendant, appellant Carmen Maldonado-Espinosa.

Jose A. Quiles, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Daniel F. Lopez-Romo, U.S. Atty., Hato Rey, P.R., was on brief, for appellee.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, FEINBERG, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

BREYER, Chief Judge.

Jose Maldonado-Espinosa and his sister, Carmen Maldonado-Espinosa, appeal their convictions for possession with intent to distribute sixty kilograms of cocaine. 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 955 and 18 U.S.C. § 2.

Page 102

They claim that the district court should have suppressed as evidence the cocaine, two airline tickets, and four luggage claim checks. The district court explained in detail why it denied the motions to suppress. United States v. Maldonado-Espinosa, 767 F.Supp. 1176 (D.P.R.1991). We find its conclusions are adequately supported in the evidence and in law, and we therefore affirm the convictions.



On February 28, 1991, government agents at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico, using a drug-sniffing dog, identified four suitcases as probably containing narcotics; identified the Maldonados, who were bound for Miami, as the suitcases' likely owners; detained, handcuffed, and questioned the Maldonados; opened the suitcases and found the cocaine; asked Carmen Maldonado for the airline tickets; and searched for and found the luggage claim checks in Carmen Maldonado's carry-on bag. The key events, as found by the district court and supported in the record, included the following:

1) Customs Officer Raul Diaz was conducting a training session with his accuracy-certified, drug-sniffing dog, Hershel. Hershel was supposed to pick out "dummy" luggage, which Customs agents had filled with narcotics, from ordinary domestic and international luggage on a luggage conveyor belt. Instead, Hershel "alerted" the agents to the presence of drugs, not in the "dummy" luggage but in two other suitcases.

2) Officer Diaz, on the instructions of Juan Hurtado, his supervisor, put the two suitcases through the Department of Agriculture's x-ray machine. The x-ray revealed bulky packages that might contain drugs.

3) Diaz returned with Hershel to the luggage conveyor belt, where Hershel alerted the agents to two more suitcases. The agents x-rayed these as well. They also appeared to be filled with loaf-shaped packages.

4) Hurtado, noting on the luggage tags, names (Castro and Colon), destination (Miami), and airline (American), went to the gate, where an American Airlines agent recalled dealing with a couple named "Castro" and "Colon." She pointed out Carmen Maldonado in the waiting area.

5) Hurtado approached Carmen and asked her for her ticket. She said her brother had it, and that he was in the men's room. She agreed to wait with Hurtado for Jose. When Jose appeared, Hurtado asked if he could see their...

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