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UNITED STATES v. ALEXANDER

May 28, 1963

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Patsy ALEXANDER, Jr., Walter Suba, Nathan Volpe



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARSH

Defendants, Patsy Alexander, Jr., Nathan Volpe, and Walter Suba, have been indicted for conspiring to defraud the United States and for attempting to bribe a person acting in behalf of the United States in the care, custody and control of United States Food Stamps. This case concerns the operation by the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of a program to distribute United States Food Stamps to needy persons in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

The defendants, Alexander and Volpe, have moved to suppress testimony relating to certain telephone conversations, recording of said telephone conversations, and all evidence obtained as a result of said telephone conversations.

 In our opinion the motion to suppress should be denied.

 All the telephone conversations involved took place during a period from July 27, 1962, to August 3, 1962, and were between Anthony C. Collins, an employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, and one or more of the defendants.

 Some of the telephone calls were made initially by Collins; other telephone calls were made initially by the defendants to Collins. All the telephone conversations took place while Collins was in his home in New Salem, Pennsylvania, a town near Uniontown in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

 Counsel have stipulated that each of the telephone conversations involved persons in the State of Pennsylvania at the time of the conversation.

 Collins and each of the defendants live in the vicinity of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. All the telephone calls were intrastate.

 The recording device was operated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The connection was not made with the consent of or through equipment furnished, installed and maintained by the Bell Telephone Company. The telephone line to which the recorder was attached was connected with the exchange and toll system of the Bell Telephone Company, which system was used to carry telephone messages in interstate and foreign toll service.

 The recording device did not contain an automatic tone warning which would produce a distinct signal repeated at regular intervals in the course of the conversations for the purpose of providing notice to the parties that their telephone conversations were being recorded. *fn1"

 By use of the recording device without warning signal, telephone conversations with Collins in his home were recorded without notice to the other parties to the conversations, including defendants, Alexander and Volpe.

 The connection between the recording device and the telephone line was made with the consent of Collins; he gave permission to agents to listen in and record the telephone conversations between him and the defendants.

 During the larger part of conversations Collins had with Alexander and Volpe, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation listened to same simultaneously with Collins, by listening at the telephone receiver on the first floor; some parts of the conversations were listened to by an agent through the external earphones of the amplifier. Neither Collins nor any of the agents made any notes of said conversations.

 Generally, the recordings were played back, within a few hours after their recording, to the agents and Collins. They are not now able to distinguish, as to present knowledge, that part heard by simultaneous listening to the telephone conversations and that heard from the recordings. Some of the recordings were played back and interpreted by ...


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