United States v. Epstein

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Citation240 F. Supp. 84
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, v. Harry EPSTEIN et al., Defendants.
Decision Date02 April 1965

240 F. Supp. 84

Harry EPSTEIN et al., Defendants.

United States District Court S. D. New York.

April 2, 1965.

Robert M. Morgenthau, U. S. Atty. for Southern Dist. of New York, New York City, for United States, Edward M. Shaw, Asst. U. S. Atty., of counsel.

William Esbitt and Marvin B. Segal, New York City, for defendants Ludvik Katz, Maurice Katz and Zoltan Katz.

240 F. Supp. 85

WEINFELD, District Judge.

The motion by defendants Ludvik, Maurice and Zoltan Katz for the suppression and return of property seized on the premises of Valiant Watch, Ltd. under a search warrant issued by the United States Commissioner is denied.

Apart from the fact that Customs Agent Dolan's affidavit upon its face indicates probable cause for the issuance of the warrant,1 the extensive hearing conducted before me established the identity of the informer referred to in the affidavit, his previously demonstrated reliability, as well as independent knowledge on the part of the customs agents — all of which made out an overwhelming case of probable cause. Indeed, it is the Court's view that the Government presented much more evidence at the hearing than was required to sustain the Commissioner's determination of probable cause.

The principal attack upon Dolan's affidavit centered upon the source and basis of his allegation that smuggled watch movements were contained in the packages delivered to Valiant Watch, Ltd. by one of its employees. The hearing developed that Dolan had acquired this knowledge on three separate occasions when he inspected the packages at a "drop" with the consent of the employee, who had been cooperating with Dolan and other customs agents. The employee had been dispatched there to pick up the packages and then to deliver them to the premises of Valiant Watch, Ltd. The defendants contend these searches violated their constitutional rights. However, at the time of the inspection the title and ultimate right to possession of the watches were in the corporation, not in the individual defendants, even though they were stockholders or officers. Accordingly, the searches violated no constitutionally protected rights of theirs,2 assuming the invalidity of the searches.

In any event, the searches were lawful; the customs agents acted within their authority3 in examining the packages and in securing samples therefrom, with or without the consent of the employee. They did not act upon mere suspicion, but on each occasion had abundant evidence upon which to ground a reasonable relief that the packages contained illegally imported watch movements. Defendants' contention that authority to search without a warrant is confined under the statute to customs borders and ports of entry, or situations

240 F. Supp. 86
involving hot pursuit, finds no support in the cases4 and flies in the face of the plain statutory language permitting a search on reasonable cause of "any trunk or envelope, wherever found." The defendants overlook the fact, of which the Court takes notice, that the searches in question occurred in New York City, the largest of our ports of entry. Moreover, assuming that petitioner interprets the statute correctly, the events and circumstances which led to the inspection survive any constitutional claim of unreasonable search. Since the packages were in transit, it was not feasible to obtain a search warrant; any purpose of inspection of the suspected contraband would have been frustrated by the time a warrant could have been obtained.5...

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11 cases
  • Corngold v. United States
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 29, 1966
    ......§ 482 to search and seize the contraband. The Supreme Court unanimously denied certiorari in this case. 375 U.S. 946, 84 S. Ct. 357, 11 L.Ed.2d 277 (1963). Cf. also: United States v. One 1937 Hudson Terraplane Coupe, 21 F.Supp. 600 (W.D. Ky.1937), and United States v. Epstein, 240 F.Supp. 84 (S.D.N.Y.1965), involving smuggled watches. The decision in the latter case rests upon the statutory authority given by 19 U.S.C. § 482 to Customs agents to open a package then in custody of an employee of Valiant Watch, Ltd. Based on what was discovered, the government obtained a ......
  • United States v. Birrell
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 23, 1967
    ...v. Stonehill, 254 F.Supp. 1003, 1005 (S.D.N.Y.1966); United States v. Kenner, 36 F.R.D. 391, 394 (S.D.N.Y.1965); United States v. Epstein, 240 F.Supp. 84, 86 (S.D.N.Y.1965); United States v. Frankfeld, 100 F.Supp. 934, 935-936, 938 (D.Md.1951); Record, pp. 1483-85, United States v. Agueci, ......
  • Valerio v. State, 4456
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 6, 1975
    ...den. 375 U.S. 888, 84 S.Ct. 167, 11 L.Ed.2d 118 (1963); Palmer v. U. S., 92 U.S.App.D.C. 103, 203 F.2d 66 (1953); U. S. v. Epstein, 240 F.Supp. 84, 86 (U.S.D.C.S.D.N.Y.1965); U. S. v. Donovan, 251 F.Supp. 477 (U.S.D.C.Ohio 1968), where cash was lawfully seized under a warrant describing onl......
  • United States v. Kane
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 9, 1965
    ...United States v. Fago, 319 F.2d 791 (2d Cir. 1963); United States v. Guterma, 272 F.2d 344 (2d Cir. 1959). Cf. United States v. Epstein, 240 F.Supp. 84, 85 & n. 2 (S.D.N.Y.1965). 18 E g., In re Groban, 352 U.S. 330, 333, 346-47, 77 S.Ct. 510, 1 L.Ed.2d 376 (1957) (majority and dissenting op......
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