United States v. Patterson, CRIMINAL DOCKET No. 19-27

Decision Date11 June 2019
Docket NumberCRIMINAL DOCKET No. 19-27
Citation393 F.Supp.3d 456
Parties UNITED STATES of America v. Brittany Riquel PATTERSON
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana

Dall Kammer, U.S. Attorney's Office, New Orleans, LA, Lauren Marie Castaldi, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for United States of America.

Charles D. Marshall, III, Chaffe McCall LLP, Claude J. Kelly, Federal Public Defender's Office, New Orleans, LA, for Brittany Riquel Patterson.




Before the Court is a sealed Motion to Suppress (Rec. Doc. 40) , filed by Defendant, Brittany Patterson. The Government filed an opposition (Rec. Doc. 63), to which the Defendant replied (Rec. Doc. 55). The Court held oral argument on the motion on May 20, 2019. Considering the Motion, the memoranda, the record, and the law, the Court finds that the Motion should be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART .


Patterson argues that statements she made on three different days to IRS Special Agents should be suppressed because these statements were obtained in violation of her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. Both the Defendant and the Government depend on memoranda written by the interviewing agents for an accounting of the events. Accordingly, the facts are agreed upon, just not their import, and the Court has concluded an evidentiary hearing is not necessary to resolve the suppression issue.

I. May 28, 2015

Although it is unclear exactly when Patterson became a target of an IRS criminal investigation, the Government admits she was a target before she was ever interviewed by Special Agents.1 In late February of 2015, the IRS launched a sting against Patterson while she was running her own tax preparation shop out of an apartment complex. According to an IRS memorandum recording the sting, an "undercover shopper" went to Patterson's place of business, and Patterson instructed the undercover shopper to falsely claim someone else's child as a dependent niece so the undercover shopper could receive a larger refund.2

With this evidence in hand, on May 28, 2015, Special Agents Mark Nuss and Jason Boyles of IRS Criminal Investigation attempted to interview Patterson at her last known address.3 After learning she had not lived there for eighteen months, Agent Nuss called Patterson and left her a voicemail asking her to call him back. At 10:13 a.m., Agent Nuss followed up with a text message introducing himself as an agent with IRS Criminal Investigation and asking Patterson to call him back. Patterson responded two minutes later in a text message: "I spoke with my lawyer and he said not to speak with anyone without him sorry." Agent Nuss responded, "When can we meet with you and your lawyer? And if you give me your lawyer's name I will contact him directly. And Phone number?" Patterson texted back asking if the investigation involved "Erin, ... Cause I hardly did any returns with them this year and none of them had no criminal activity." Responding separately to Agent Nuss's inquiry into her lawyer's contact information, she replied her lawyer was only available by appointment and she would have to talk to him first. Agent Nuss then asked where he could drop off documents for Patterson. Patterson then called Agent Nuss and admitted to working for another tax preparation business that was under investigation. During the phone call she told Agent Nuss that they could drop off documents for her at her mother's house, and she provided that address.

The agents, wearing plain clothes, arrived at Patterson's mother's house at 11:06 a.m.4 Once there, they learned that Patterson was not; they called her, and she arrived a couple of minutes later. After they introduced themselves and produced their credentials, Patterson invited the agents inside her mother's trailer home. Once inside, the agents issued an IRS Summons to Patterson, which ordered her to appear at the IRS's New Orleans office on June 10, 2015. They then read Patterson the IRS's standard statement of non-custodial rights:

As a special agent, one of my functions is to investigate the possibility of criminal violations of the Internal Revenue laws, and related offenses. In connection with my investigations of your tax liability (or other matter), I would like to ask you some questions. However, first I advise you that under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S., I cannot compel you to answer any questions or to submit any information if such answers or information might tend to incriminate you in any way. I also advise you that anything which you say and any documents which you submit may be used against you in any criminal proceeding which may be undertaken. I advise you further that you may, if you wish, seek the assistance of any attorney before responding. Do you understand these rights?"5

Patterson indicated she did understand these rights by responding, "Yes." Patterson then turned to her mother and told her she was not afraid to speak with the agents because she had done nothing wrong. Patterson's mother sat on the sofa in the adjoining room for most of the interview.6

The Memorandum of Interview states the interview was conducted from 11:09 a.m. to 5:54 p.m., and the content of this memorandum confirms that the interview was lengthy.7 At the beginning of the interview, Patterson gave the agents some biographical information. She revealed that after her second child was born she suffered from postpartum depression and that she was diagnosed as bi-polar schizophrenia in 2009. Patterson noted, however, that she is fine with medication, and she described herself as healthy.8

The interview then turned to questions about her work at three different tax preparation businesses: Pelicans Income Tax and Bookkeeping Service; Crown Tax Service, LLC; and No Limit Tax Refund LLC, the business Patterson owned and operated herself.9 Patterson first told the agents about her work at Pelican, which lasted for only the first two weeks of February in 2015—Patterson prepared twenty-six returns while working there.10 Patterson described many acts of fraud by her fellow employees at Pelican, telling the agents that her co-workers had changed names and state ID numbers on returns, inflated withholdings, and that her former boss had fled to Texas with taxpayers' refund money.11

Next, Patterson spoke about her employment at Crown. Again, Patterson made allegations of fraud against her employer, stating that Butler, Crown's owner, allowed people to misstate their income on returns.12 Patterson stated she did not work as a tax preparer at Crown but instead mainly performed clerical work and referred customers to the business. The agents gave Patterson a spreadsheet entitled "2012 Returns Deposited to Crown Bank Account" and Patterson identified the returns of the people she had referred to Crown.13 Patterson was also given photographs of Butler, Butler's wife, and Dana Alvarez, a tax preparer at Crown, to identify.

Finally, Patterson spoke to the officers about her own business, No Limit. Patterson stated she was the owner, sole tax preparer, and sole transmitter of returns at No Limit.14 Patterson admitted that she falsified numbers returns in order to help friends and family receive inflated refunds. Patterson stated, "I made up income numbers for family members."15 And, "I know people who are struggling and I tried to help them get money."16 The agents gave various documents to Patterson regarding No Limit for her to review with them. When she was given a spreadsheet entitled "Brittany Patterson 2013 Returns" she went down the list and wrote "FD" next to the people who claimed false dependents.17 She did the same with a corresponding spreadsheet for Pelicans.18

Before the interview concluded, the agents asked Patterson for her current address. She told the agents she still lived at the address she had not lived at for eighteen months, and the officers replied they knew this to be false.19 Patterson said she was living with someone and she refused to tell the officers the address. The interview ended.

In her affidavit attached to her motion to suppress,20 Patterson avers that she was dizzy, anxious, and unable to think clearly during the interview because she was off her anti-psychotic medication and had not slept the night before. As she informed the agents, Patterson has been diagnosed with bi-polar schizophrenia. She states she was prescribed and was taking the anti-psychotic Seroquel in 2015, and that when she missed doses she typically suffered the same symptoms she says she suffered during the interview. Patterson also explains she did not sleep the night before because she worked the nighttime cleaning shift at Ochsner Hospital on May 27, 2015, and she did not take her two scheduled doses of Seroquel on that day because the medication makes her tired and she needed to work late. In between her shift ending at 6:00 a.m., and the first phone call around 10:00 a.m., Patterson had to drop her sister off at home and ready her kids for school. Patterson also included a page from her medical file indicating she suffered manic episodes on April 6, 2015 and June 22, 2015.21

II. June 10, 2015

The IRS Summons required Patterson to appear on June 10, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. Patterson failed to appear on time, and Agent Nuss texted Patterson, "Good morning Brittany, are you coming in for your summons appearance?"22 Patterson responded that she could not make it. Agent Nuss offered a new date and texted,

I can authorize one extension on the summons but I need to remind you that the summons is a legal document. Please read the section entitled Enforcement of Summons. Failure to appear will result in an attachment and arrest. Since you've been fully cooperative, I don't want that to happen.23

Patterson responded, "Ok I will go see my lawyer today and let him know everything that's going on and I agreed to speak to y'all without him...

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