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United States v. Dobson

June 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.


The Indictment in the above-captioned case charges Co-Defendants Johnny Cobb ("Cobb"), Terrell Dobson ("Dobson"), and Jerrod Abney ("Abney") with twenty-three (23) counts, including allegations of conspiracy to use and traffic in counterfeit and unauthorized credit cards, use of a counterfeit access device, attempt to use a counterfeit access device, use of an unauthorized access device, aggravated identity theft, and the possession of fifteen (15) or more counterfeit or unauthorized devices.*fn1 Before the Court are Defendants Dobson and Abney's (collectively, "Defendants") separate Motions to Suppress all physical evidence recovered in connection with their arrest on March 12, 2009.*fn2 Upon consideration of Defendants' Motions, the Government's responses,*fn3 two evidentiary hearings and oral argument held thereon,*fn4 and resulting briefs from both parties,*fn5 the Court enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.*fn6


1. On March 12, 2009, Richard Verna ("Verna") had been working as a loss prevention detective at Bloomingdale's in the King of Prussia Mall for six or seven months.*fn8 His duties included monitoring the store, acting as security, identifying suspicious activity, and apprehending individuals suspected of shoplifting, refund fraud, credit fraud, and the use of fraudulent credit cards.*fn9 Verna had been a loss prevention detective at various retail establishments for about five years.*fn10

2. At approximately 3:45 PM. on March 12, 2009, Verna received a call from a sales associate named Maryanne Collins who worked in the handbags department.*fn11 Ms. Collins alerted Verna to the presence of an individual (later identified as Dobson) that she recognized.*fn12 Ms. Collins told Verna that Rebecca Childs, another loss prevention detective, considered the individual to be suspicious.*fn13 Ms. Collins told Verna that he was purchasing an expensive Fendi handbag, valued at $1,265, and that he presented New York identification.*fn14 The suspicious individual previously noticed by Childs and John Resine, Verna's supervisor, had also presented New York identification.*fn15

3. After Dobson made the purchase, Verna and Resine followed him through the store, into the mall, and then to the parking lot.*fn16 Verna saw Dobson enter a vehicle that he thought at the time was a green Ford Explorer.*fn17 Following standard procedure, Verna and Resine recorded the make and model, and tag information for the vehicle.*fn18

4. Verna then returned to the Fendi counter at Bloomingdale's, where a manager informed him that a second individual (later identified as Abney), who presented New York identification, was trying to buy an expensive Fendi handbag valued at $1,110.*fn19 Abney attempted to make the purchase using two credit cards, which were both denied.*fn20

5. When Abney left the Fendi counter without making a purchase, Verna and Resine followed him out of Bloomingdale's, into the mall, and then out into the parking lot, stopping their pursuit at a crosswalk.*fn21 Approximately fifteen minutes had lapsed since Verna was initially alerted to the first suspicious individual at the handbag counter.*fn22

6. Next, Verna called the Upper Merion Police Department to report to police dispatch what had happened.*fn23 He told dispatch that he had been following a man that he believed to be involved in credit card fraud, and that the man had attempted to use two cards that were declined.*fn24 Verna added that the man had presented New York identification, and that Bloomingdale's "had been having issues with individuals from New York using stolen cards to purchase handbags."*fn25 Verna provided the tag information and make and model of the first suspect's vehicle, and mentioned that he would be waiting for law enforcement at the crosswalk.*fn26

7. A few minutes later, Officer Susan Bednar ("Bednar") met Verna at the crosswalk.*fn27 Verna briefly described what had happened, and gave Bednar the tag information, make and model of the vehicle he had previously seen.*fn28 He also described the two individuals, explaining that they had attempted to buy Fendi handbags, one of them successfully.*fn29 He also noted that Bloomingdale's had previously experienced problems with individuals with New York identification committing credit card fraud.*fn30

8. Bednar relayed Verna's comments to Officer Burkett ("Burkett"), who acted as backup officer on the call.*fn31 Burkett then broadcast the vehicle description via police radio.*fn32

9. Corporal Brazunas ("Brazunas"), also with the Upper Merion Township Police Department, heard the report of suspicious activity at Bloomingdale's while on another call and drove over to Mall. When he reached the Mall parking lot, Brazunas called Burkett who gave him a description of the vehicle allegedly involved in the incident.*fn33

10. Shortly thereafter, Brazunas observed a green SUV with New York tags driving within the Mall area (on a roadway identified at the evidentiary hearing as the "ring road").*fn34 He called in the tag number of the vehicle and received confirmation that it matched the number given out by Bloomingdale's security.*fn35 The time period between Brazunas hearing the initial police dispatch and him spotting the vehicle was approximately five or six minutes.*fn36

11. Brazunas then followed the vehicle, which he identified as a green Ford Expedition, until he could safely make a car stop on the ramp leading to 76 West. Seeing that the vehicle windows were heavily tinted, Brazunas waited for Bednar and Burkett to arrive so that another officer would be present when he made the initial contact with the occupants.*fn37

12. Brazunas approached the vehicle on the driver's side while Bednar and Burkett approached on the passenger side. Both Brazunas and Burkett could see the figure of the rear passenger moving around in the car through the window.*fn38

13. Brazunas walked up to the driver's side window and began conversing with Co-Defendant Johnny Cobb, the driver of the vehicle, informing him of their investigation and ...

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