U.S. v. Figueroa

Decision Date15 May 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-1298,86-1298
Citation818 F.2d 1020
Parties22 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1674 UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Raul Casiano FIGUEROA, Defendant, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Charles W. Rankin, by Appointment of the Court, with whom Rankin & Sultan, Boston, Mass., was on brief, for defendant, appellant.

Victor A. Wild, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Robert S. Mueller, III, U.S. Atty., Boston, Mass., was on brief, for appellee.

Before CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, BREYER and SELYA, Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

The Secret Service, an arm of the federal Department of the Treasury, is entrusted with the primary responsibility for policing the integrity of the nation's money supply. Not impressed by the old saw that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Service maintains an unending vigil to halt trafficking in homemade currency. In the course of such duties, agents of the Secret Service crossed the path of Raul Casiano Figueroa, the defendant-appellant herein. The tale follows.

I

In the autumn of 1984, the Secret Service conducted an investigation into certain reported sales of counterfeit currency in the Boston area. During this investigation, one Leland Richards unwittingly sold some $800 worth of fake twenty dollar bills to an undercover Secret Service agent, Kenneth Bradshaw, on November 9, 1984. Richards was arrested on the spot. Caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he agreed to cooperate with the authorities in a collaborative effort to trace the origins of the simulated greenbacks.

Richards's turnabout boded ill for the appellant, as the recreant lost little time in giving sworn statements which implicated Figueroa 1 in a scheme to distribute some $20,000 in counterfeit notes. Specifically, Richards identified the defendant as the individual he had witnessed agreeing to supply yet another trafficker, Alcides Contreras-Perez, with large quantities of the funny money. A confidential informant corroborated this aspect of Richards's story. And, both she 2 and Richards furnished the Secret Service with specimens of the bills which they claimed to have obtained (independently) from Contreras-Perez. The samples of the illegal tender proved to be identical.

Richards's cooperation with the government was not limited to telling what he knew; he also placed telephone calls to Figueroa, and arranged for Bradshaw to meet with the defendant for the express purpose of negotiating a sale of the scrip. This rendezvous occurred on November 13 at Figueroa's home. At that time, the appellant agreed to sell counterfeit currency to Bradshaw, insisting only that the transaction be facilitated through Richards.

Two days later, Figueroa directed Richards to join him at Kay's Garage in Dorchester, Massachusetts. They met inside the garage at approximately 6:00 p.m. on that date. Surveillance was in place. When a car bearing the pair left the garage (with Figueroa driving), a cadre of lawmen stopped the vehicle. Surrounded by government agents and police officers (some with weapons drawn), but without any prompting or questioning, Figueroa spontaneously exclaimed that he knew all about the spurious twenty dollar bills and volunteered his cooperation in the ongoing investigation.

The appellant was then given Miranda warnings (which he acknowledged having understood) and taken to the nearby Secret Service office for interrogation. He neither requested counsel nor invoked his known right to remain silent. To the exact contrary, he made a number of incriminating statements concerning his role in a series of illicit counterfeit-related transactions. These oral statements were recorded and later reduced to writing. The written summary, which included a further recital of the defendant's Miranda waiver, was read to Figueroa and thereafter given to him to review. He signed it, vouching for its accuracy. The sum and substance of the narrative was that Figueroa had obtained $20,000 in ersatz twenties from a Los Angeles source, one Santiago, in October 1984. Once back in Boston, the appellant allocated equal amounts of the bogus bills to Contreras-Perez and Richards, respectively. Each consignee was to pay Figueroa $2,000 in genuine coin of the realm.

During his initial stay at the Secret Service office (which lasted for some two hours), Figueroa claimed to be working as a private investigator on behalf of the Carribean Detective Agency in Puerto Rico. (This myth was later exploded--and abandoned by the appellant--when the agents contacted the Carribean Detective Agency directly and established that Figueroa's employment was but a figment of his fertile imagination.) He reaffirmed his desire to assist the agents, and offered to give them easy access both to Santiago and to a local counterfeiting sachem, Leo Venuti. In furtherance of Figueroa's suggestion, Ron Malfi, a Secret Service agent, drove him to Venuti's home in Braintree, Massachusetts that very evening. There, appellant introduced Malfi as an associate from Los Angeles interested in purchasing counterfeit. During this session, Venuti explained that he was familiar with the bills from California that Figueroa and Contreras-Perez possessed, and boasted that his own counterfeit was better. The meeting ended with a tentative agreement for Venuti to wholesale some of this "superior" merchandise to Figueroa and Malfi on November 17.

Figueroa went home that evening a free man, having agreed to return to the Secret Service office the following day. He did so return, but discontinued his cooperation abruptly when his requests for money and immunity (not necessarily in that order of priority) were spurned.

In March 1985, the grand jury returned the instant indictment against Figueroa to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The indictment charged conspiracy to possess and deal in counterfeit currency, 18 U.S.C. Secs. 371, 472, 473, along with two substantive counts of possession, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 472, and dealing, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 473. All of the accusations related to the defendant's activities with Richards and with an unnamed individual (subsequently identified as McArthur Sullivan) during October and November of 1984.

Prior to trial, the appellant moved to suppress the statements he had made to the agents on November 15, claiming that there was no probable cause for what he viewed as his "arrest" and that the statements obtained were, therefore, impermissibly tainted. After an extensive pretrial hearing, the district court refused suppression. The court found that, although Figueroa's detention on November 15 was tantamount to an arrest, the government had ample cause to apprehend him.

In February 1986, Figueroa's trial commenced. The prosecution presented a string of witnesses who corroborated and amplified the facts which we have recounted. In addition, the aforementioned McArthur Sullivan testified pursuant to a grant of immunity. The meat of Sullivan's testimony was that Contreras-Perez had introduced him to Figueroa (then using the alias "Tony") in the summer of 1984; that he and Figueroa had several contacts thereafter; and that, in October 1984, Figueroa telephoned to inform him that "something" had been left in a Saab at the garage where Sullivan worked. According to the witness, his subsequent search of the Saab's trunk revealed a green plastic bag containing almost $30,000 in counterfeit currency.

The jury, apparently persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt that the bills were bogus and the criminality authentic, returned guilty verdicts on all counts. Figueroa was thereafter sentenced and claimed this appeal. We affirm.

II

The appellant's principal assignment of error concerns the district court's denial of his motion to suppress the inculpatory statements which he made to the agents on November 15, 1984. His claim is that, when the Secret Service stopped his car and confronted him, the agents effectuated what amounted to a warrantless arrest, not supported by probable cause. It follows, he contends, that the statements which the Service obtained from him thereafter were forbidden fruits of a tree poisoned by a fourth amendment violation, and should have been quashed. In denying the defendant's motion to suppress, however, the district judge agreed with the defendant's premise only in part; he found that, although the agents' actions amounted to a custodial arrest (as Figueroa asserted), the apprehension was nevertheless lawful inasmuch as it was bottomed on a surfeit of probable cause.

The government strives mightily on appeal, as it did below, to cast Figueroa's detention in the mold of an investigatory "stop" within the meaning of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). The matter is not free from doubt. Compare Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 206-26, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 2253-64, 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979) with United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 105 S.Ct. 1568, 1573-76, 84 L.Ed.2d 605 (1985). See generally United States v. Quinn, 815 F.2d 153 (1st Cir.1987). Yet, we need not troll in such windswept seas. Assuming (albeit without deciding) that the appellant's detainer was in the nature of an arrest, as he argues, the district court's finding that the probable cause requirement of the federal Constitution was satisfied seems unimpugnable.

We begin by noting that the constitutionality of a warrantless arrest "depends ... upon whether, at the moment the arrest was made, the officers had probable cause to make it--whether at that moment the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent [person] in believing that the [defendant] had committed or was committing an offense." Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 225, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964). Accord United States v. Ayres, 725 F.2d 806, 809 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 817, 105...

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