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United States v. Yokshan

October 1, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



Defendant Joseph Yokshan ("Defendant") is charged with one count of knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of oxycodone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C).

Beginning in 2004, the Bensalem Township Police

Department Special Investigations Unit ("SIU") obtained information from various sources that the Defendant was engaged in the distribution of narcotics, specifically Percocet and Oxycontin pills. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Evid. Ex. C, doc. no. 13.)*fn2 In February 2007, Officer Schwartz of the SIU spoke with Confidential Informant 07-06 ("C.I. 07-06") who stated that the Defendant sold Percocet pills (among other drugs) and that C.I. 07-06 purchased drugs at the Defendant's residence, located at 2472 Greenland Court, Bensalem, PA 19020 (the "Residence"), more than twenty times the previous year. Id.

On December 4, 2007, members of the SIU conducted a controlled buy of Oxycontin pills from an individual known to the SIU ("Person 1"), after which SIU officers followed Person 1 to the Defendant's Residence and observed Person 1 enter the Residence and leave approximately 3 minutes later. Id. Person 1 was arrested on narcotics charges and upon questioning informed the SIU that the Defendant sold large quantities of Percocet pills; that Person 1 purchased Percocet pills from the Defendant on numerous occasions in the preceding six months; that the Defendant drove to New York to purchase his supply of pills; and that the Defendant drove a tan Nissan Altima with Dare License Plates. (Id.; Id. at Ex. A, Aff. ¶ 6).

On December 20, 2007, at the request of the SIU, Person 1 engaged in a controlled buy of four Percocet pills in exchange for $40.00 pre-recorded buy money from the Defendant at the Residence (the "Controlled Buy"). (Id. at Ex. A, Aff. ¶ 7; Id. at Ex. C.) The Controlled Buy consisted of SIU Officers issuing pre-recorded buy money to Person 1 and following him, without Person 1's knowledge, to the Defendant's Residence. (Mot. to Suppress Hr'g Tr. 22:22-23:25, Sept. 3, 2009.) The Defendant was observed exiting the Residence and directly entering Person 1's vehicle, after which Person 1's vehicle drove around the Residence for approximately 30 seconds, at which time the Defendant was observed exiting the Vehicle and returning to his Residence. (Id.)

In June 2008, Officer Schwartz spoke to a person known to SIU ("Person 2") who stated that Person 2 purchased Percocet pills in bulk from the Defendant between 60-70 times in the previous year. (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Evid. Ex. C.) Person 2 further stated that the Defendant drove to New York City in a "champagne colored Nissan Altima or Maxima" and that the Defendant drove to New York City "at least once a week" in order to purchase his narcotics supply. (Id.)*fn3 SIU Officer Schwartz verified through surveillance that the Defendant drove a Nissan Altima bearing Pennsylvania DARE license plate DA6A70 (the "Vehicle"), and confirmed through the records of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that license plate DA6A70 is registered to the Defendant.*fn4 (Id.)

On August 11, 2008, Confidential Source 08-36 ("C.I. 08-36") advised the SIU that he bought Percocet and Oxycontin pills from the Defendant over 100 times in the previous eight years and that C.I. 08-36 last observed the Defendant with narcotics in June 2008. (Id.) The same day, C.I. 08-36 informed the SIU that the Defendant responded to a request by C.I. 08-36 to purchase Percocet pills by stating that he was on his way to "re-up" his supply and would contact C.I. 08-36 upon his return. (Id.)

On August 18, 2008, Special Agent Jeffrey Lauriha of the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") applied for a warrant authorizing the installation of a Global Positioning System ("GPS") device on the Vehicle for the purpose of investigating Defendant's involvement in drug-related activities. (Id. at Ex. A, Aff. ¶ 2.) The warrant was approved by the Honorable Timothy R. Rice and expired 45 days after its execution(the "Original Warrant"). On August 21, 2008, Special Agent Richard Ellwanger of the DEA installed the GPS device on the outside of the Vehicle while it was parked in the driveway of the Defendant's Residence.

Information provided by monitoring the GPS device revealed that the Defendant traveled to the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, which Person 2 identified as a location at which he purchased Percocet pills from the Defendant. (Id. at Ex. B, Aff. ¶ 12.) The Extension Warrant did not state the dates on which Person 2 had purchased Percocet pills from the Defendant at the Franklin Mills Mall. Monitoring of the GPS tracking device failed to reveal any trips by the Defendant to New York City in the Vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 13.) On September 30, 2008, the Honorable Linda K. Caracappa approved a 45-day extension of the Original Warrant (the "Extension Warrant," and together with the Original Warrant, the "Warrants"). Both the Original Warrant and the Extension Warrant were accompanied by affidavits setting forth the basis for probable cause (collectively, the "Affidavits").

On November 11, 2008, law enforcement agents were alerted that the Vehicle was traveling to New York City based on information from the GPS device.*fn5 (Id. at Ex. C.) Approximately ten minutes after arrival in New York City, the Vehicle departed back toward Pennsylvania, making one brief stop at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. (Id.) The SIU officers initiated a traffic stop of the Vehicle upon its exit from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.*fn6 (Id.) The SIU officers observed the Defendant's nervousness in reaction to the stop. This apprehension was manifested by the Defendant: (1) having shaky hands; (2) dropping his wallet when his identification was requested; (3) refusing to make eye contact with SIU Officer Schwartz; and (4) repeating the questions posed by SIU Officer Schwartz. (Id.) The Defendant stated to the officers that he was returning from a 2-3 hour visit with a relative in Cumberland, New Jersey. (Id.) The Defendant specifically failed to mention traveling to New York City. (Id.) Upon the Defendant being informed that he was being detained on suspicion of a felony, the Defendant asked one of the officers what he was "looking at" and the officer responded that the Defendant was looking at going to "jail for a long time for what was in his car." (Id.) In response to this statement, the Defendant "made a large sigh and exhaled." (Id.)

The Defendant was transported to Bensalem Police Headquarters, given his Miranda warnings, and interviewed by police for approximately 30 to 45 minutes at which time the Defendant admitted in writing to possessing Percocet pills with the intent to sell. After obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement officers performed a search of the Vehicle and recovered, among other contraband, 2,000 Percocet pills.*fn7

The Defendant filed (1) a motion to suppress evidence concerning the use of the GPS device based on an allegedly defective warrant; and (2) a motion to suppress evidence and statements arising from the Defendant's custodial detention based on a lack of probable cause.


The Defendant moves to suppress evidence recovered pursuant to the Warrants authorizing installation of the GPS device on the Vehicle on the basis that the Affidavits in support of the Warrants are defective.

The Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment provides in pertinent part that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation." Const. amend IV. Evidence recovered pursuant to a warrant obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is subject to the exclusionary rule, unless the actions of the government fall under one of the judicially sanctioned exceptions to the rule. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 906 (1984) (noting that the ...

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