United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge
Hernandez Villapando and his sons, Hector Hernandez Barba and
Enixae Hernandez Barba, defendants, were indicted on April
19, 2016, on the charge of conspiracy to distribute and
possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of
cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
846. See ECF 26. A Superseding Indictment was filed
almost a year later, on March 16, 2017. ECF 91.
avoid confusion among the defendants, I shall refer to Hector
Hernandez Villapando as “Villapando.” And, I
shall refer to Hector Hernandez Barba and Enixae Hernandez
Barba by their first names.
defendants filed several pretrial motions. At a hearing on
March 17, 2017, both evidence and argument were presented.
The Court ruled on several of the motions at the hearing
(see ECF 98), but three motions remain for
disposition. They are described below.
filed a Motion to Suppress Statements and Tangible Evidence
(ECF 41), primarily arising from the warrantless
arrest of the defendants and the recovery from Hector of keys
to a warehouse in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Hector also
filed a Motion for Relief from Prejudicial Joinder and to
Sever. ECF 42. Enixae filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence
(ECF 71), challenging a residential search conducted pursuant
to a search and seizure warrant issued by a Maryland State
judge at 10:45 p.m. on April 8, 2016. The search warrant was
based on the Application and Affidavit of Special Agent
Ronald Sparrow of the Drug Enforcement Administration
(“DEA”). See ECF 71-1; see also
reasons that follow, I shall deny the motions.
Special Agents Ronald Sparrow and Susannah Wood were, at the
relevant time, assigned to Group 51, HIDTA (High Intensity
Drug Trafficking Area), in Baltimore. The DEA received
information in August 2015 from a confidential informant
(“CI”) with respect to a group of individuals
believed to be trafficking large amounts of cocaine into
to Agent Sparrow, the CI was “found to be reliable and
accurate, ” and the information provided by the CI was
“independently corroborated.” ECF 75 at 9.
connection with the group's drug trafficking, the CI
advised the DEA that the group was using a warehouse located
at Suite 104, 7110 Golden Ring Road in Baltimore. ECF 75 at
8. Further, the CI stated that shipments of cocaine came
every two to three weeks. Id. In addition, the CI
reported that the group used a box truck and a cargo van to
transport controlled dangerous substances. ECF 75 at 12.
business operating from that premises was known as KMKJ
Trucking LLC. However, by July 31, 2015, that business had
been evicted. ECF 75 at 10. Investigators later identified
Unit L, 717 Hammonds Ferry Road, in Linthicum Heights,
Maryland, as the warehouse utilized by the individuals
previously suspected of drug trafficking at the warehouse on
Golden Ring Road.
the eviction from the Golden Ring Road location, DEA agents
conducted interviews of persons associated with neighboring
businesses. One individual (“Source of
Information” or “SOI”) reported that he/she
had not observed any legitimate business activity at Suite
104. Moreover, the Source of Information indicated that,
every two to three weeks, a tractor-trailer arrived at night.
Id. at 9. Notably, the SOI entered the vacated
premises and saw “large industrial size bags of paprika
inside” Suite 104. ECF 75 at 10. According to Special
Agent Sparrow, paprika is used to mask the odor of narcotics.
Overhead Door was also a business neighbor at Golden Ring
Road. An associate at that business (“SOI-2”)
confirmed that he/she never saw activity at Suite 104 during
the day. Id. SOI-2 also recalled that a forklift had
been left at Suite 104. Id. Investigation revealed
that the forklift had been sold to “Juan” on
February 5, 2015, for cash, and delivered to Suite 104. ECF
75 at 10. According to Agent Wood, forklifts are used to move
palettes in which drugs are secreted.
Dodge Sprinter box truck had been parked outside the rear of
Suite 104 at the Golden Ring Road location. Id. On
August 4, 2015, it was towed by Mc-N-Mc Towing Company. ECF
75 at 10. The DEA agents traced ownership of the vehicle to
Villapando. Moreover, Villapando paid storage fees to Mc-N-Mc
Towing Company, in cash, between August and December 2015.
Id. According to Agent Wood, Villapando, along with
the wife of Enixae, eventually retrieved the truck from the
towing company. See also ECF 75 at 10-11.
obtained a copy of Villapando's driver's license from
“Management, ” which “listed” an
address for him in Calexico, California. ECF 75 at 11.
According to Agent Wood, Calexico is located on the Mexican
border and is a known source of drug importation to the
positively identified a driver's license photograph of
Villapando as one of the individual's involved in the
distribution of cocaine in Baltimore. ECF 75 at 11-12. In
addition, Agent Wood stated that the CI identified a
photograph of Enixae. Moreover, investigation revealed that
both Villapando and Enixae had been arrested in 2005 in
Calexico on drug charges. Id. at 12.
investigators identified 106 John Avenue in Linthicum
Heights, Maryland as “a residence associated with the
Hernandez DTO.” ECF 75 at 14. They initiated
surveillance of that residence on February 19, 2016.
Id. Investigators observed a white 2004 Ford van,
Maryland Tag No. 8BW0037 (the “Van”), parked in
the driveway of the John Avenue residence. Id. They
also saw a “Hispanic female, ” believed to be
Enixae's wife, leave the residence on that date and enter
the Van. Id. She drove to several banks, a gas
station, and also to an apartment building located at 10326
Hickory Ridge Road in Columbia, Maryland. Id.
canine scan of the Van was conducted at about 6:20 p.m. on
February 19, 2016, by a certified drug detection dog.
Id.at 14-15. The dog “produced a positive
response” for the presence of controlled dangerous
substances, including cocaine. Id. at
Affidavit recounts that on February 19, 2016, after the
positive canine alert, Agent Wood applied for a warrant for a
GPS tracking device for the Van. Id. It was approved
by Anne Arundel County District Judge Thomas Miller.
Id. The device was installed on the Van on February
20, 2016. Id.
February 24, 2016, Villapando was observed exiting the Van
and entering Apartment 624 at 10326 Hickory Ridge Road. ECF
75 at 16-17. Through the use of the court-authorized
surveillance equipment, the Van was also detected on March 2,
2016, travelling from the area of Hickory Ridge Road in
Columbia to 106 John Avenue in Linthicum Heights.
about 9:00 a.m. on that date, the Van left John Avenue and
proceeded to a multi-unit business park warehouse located at
717 Hammonds Ferry Road in Linthicum Heights. ECF 75 at 16.
It then proceeded to three banks, before returning to the
Hammonds Ferry Road location at 1:17 p.m. Id. At
that time, the Van parked in front of Unit L at the
warehouse. Id. There was no business name or placard
on Unit L, however. Id. at 17. Similarly, Agent Wood
testified that, during the investigation, there was no sign
of any legitimate business activity at Suite L at the
Hammonds Ferry Road location, and black paper was used to
cover the window, concealing the inside from public view.
about 1:30 p.m. on March 2, 2016, the Van left the warehouse.
ECF 75 at 17. Enixae was the driver and Villapando was the
passenger. Id. The Van returned to 106 John Avenue.
Wood testified that a pole camera was installed on March 8,
2016, at the rear of the Hammonds Ferry Road warehouse. No
activity of significance was captured by the pole camera
until April 6, 2016.
approximately 10:30 a.m. on April 6, 2016, a tractor-trailer
with the “KMKJ” logo arrived at the warehouse at
717 Hammonds Ferry Road. ECF 75 at 17. The “KMKJ”
logo matched the logo seen on vehicles at the Golden Ring
Road warehouse. The tractor-trailer was observed backing into
the rear bay door of Unit L. Id. Photographs from
the pole camera were introduced into evidence at the hearing.
See government exhibits 4A-4D. According to Agent
Wood, a forklift was used to remove pallets on the truck, and
investigators believed the cargo contained cocaine.
arrived at the warehouse at approximately 11:23 a.m., with
two “Hispanic males.” ECF 75 at 17. The Van
travelled around the parking lot and warehouse building,
“scanning the area.” Id. Agent Wood
indicated that the agents believed the two occupants were
conducting counter-surveillance of the area. Two individuals
exited the Van, believed to be Enixae and Hector. ECF 75 at
17. Both entered Unit L. Id. At approximately 1:30
p.m., the Van left the warehouse and proceeded to 106 John
Avenue in Linthicum Heights. Id.
Wood testified that the distance between the John Avenue
residence and the warehouse is only about a mile, which is
“significant.” She explained that the close
proximity is intended to minimize “exposure” of
the stash to police, because the travel distance is so short.
See also government exhibits 2, 3 (aerial views of
the area, including the warehouse and John Avenue residence).
around 1:30 p.m., another “Hispanic male” left
Unit L, unidentified by name, proceeded to the
tractor-trailer parked in the back of the warehouse and
directed it out of the lot. ECF 75 at 18. The individual then
met the driver of a Chrysler 300 at a bank. Id. The
Chrysler was rented by Santana Florencio, Jr., who had a
California address. Id. The tractor-trailer returned
to the lot at about 3:40 p.m. on April 6, 2016, and backed in
at the bay doors. Id. The trailer was
“release[d]” and the tractor exited the lot.
Group 51 investigators maintained 24-hour surveillance of the
warehouse at 717 Hammonds Ferry Road. ECF 75 at 18. This is
because, according to Agent Wood, the agents believed drugs
had been delivered to Suite L on April 6, 2016. She explained
that drug dealers typically wait before taking further
days later, on April 8, 2016, at approximately 4:51 p.m., a
black Honda with Maryland tag 68805CF arrived at the
warehouse and “dropped off a Hispanic male wearing a
red sweatshirt, later identified as Hector Hernandez
Jr.” Id. at 18. He entered Unit L through the
rear door of the warehouse. The Honda left the parking lot.
Id. At approximately 6:03 p.m., the Honda returned
to the warehouse with Villapando and Enixae, both of whom
entered Unit L through the rear door. Id. at 18-19.
approximately 6:21 p.m., a “Hispanic male” left
the warehouse, entered the Honda, and left the parking lot.
Id. at 19. Wood identified the individual as Enixae.
In particular, he drove around the lot and the
“surrounding area of the warehouse.” Id.
at 19. According to Wood, investigators regarded that conduct
as suspicious. See also government exhibits 5A-5F
(pole camera photos).
approximately 6:30 p.m., the Honda proceeded to the front of
the warehouse and exited, followed by a silver-colored Ford
F- 150, Maryland tag 6CG4330. ECF 75 at 19. Both vehicles
left the lot, travelled east on Nursery Road, and “met
at a nearby road . . . .” ECF 75 at 19. There, the two
individuals in the vehicles were “making contact in the
middle of the roadway.” Id. Both vehicles then
traveled back to the warehouse “in tandem.”
Id. The Honda parked in the lot, and the driver of
the Honda entered the warehouse. Id. Wood testified
that the driver was Enixae. The Ford F-150 proceeded to enter
Unit L through the bay door. ECF 75 at 19. The bay door then
closed. Id. A few minutes later, the Ford F-150
drove out of the warehouse. Id. According to Agent
Wood, investigators believed that a drug transaction occurred
inside the warehouse and that the Ford F-150 contained drugs
obtained inside the warehouse.
stopped the Ford F-150 when it left the warehouse.
Id. The driver, William Frederick Cornish, was asked
to exit the vehicle. A Maryland State Police officer and her
certified drug detection dog, “Akita, ” conducted
a scan of the exterior of the vehicle, which resulted in a
positive response to the odor of controlled dangerous
substances, which included cocaine. ECF 75 at 19. The dog
also alerted to the black Honda. Id. at 20.
the drug detection dog alerted to the presence of controlled
dangerous substances in the Ford F-150, investigators entered
the Ford F-150 and found a large cardboard box in the back
seat of the truck. ECF 75 at 20. It contained “31 brick
shaped packages of suspected narcotics.”
to Wood, investigators also observed Villapando, Hector, and
Enixae exit Unit L through the front door. Believing a drug
transaction had just taken place, all three men were
arrested, without a warrant. In a search of Hector, keys to
Unit L of the warehouse were recovered. At the time of the
arrest, the arresting officers were unaware of the
canine's positive alert to the two vehicles or to the
recovery of suspected controlled dangerous substances in the
Ford F-150. After the defendants were taken into custody,
investigators secured the premises at 106 John Avenue and
waited for a warrant to be obtained.
evening of April 8, 2016, Agent Sparrow submitted to a
Maryland State judge an “Application And Affidavit For
Search And Seizure Warrant” for 106 John Avenue in
Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Among other things, Agent
Sparrow described the property as a two story single family
home. ECF 75 at 4. Further, Agent Sparrow averred that a
BG&E utilities subpoena identified Enixae “as the
main contact for the residence . . . .” Id. at
Affidavit, Agent Sparrow set forth his extensive law
enforcement training and experience with regard to drug
trafficking, packaging, distribution, and surveillance. ECF
75 at 6-8. Sparrow asserted that drug traffickers
“commonly utilize vehicles to pick up, transport, and
deliver drugs” (id.at 7) and that they
transport “drug proceeds to 'stash' locations .
. . .” Id. at 8.
Affidavit also recounts several occasions when the Van was
observed at the John Avenue residence and the Hammonds Ferry
warehouse. Sparrow stated that, based on the investigation,
he believed that the residence at 106 John Avenue was being
used “for the purpose of offloading, concealment, and
distribution of CDS shipments . . . .” ECF 75 at 20.
Arundel County District Court Judge John McKenna signed the
search warrant at 10:45 p.m. on April 8, 2016. ECF 75 at 3.
a search of 106 John Avenue, pursuant to the warrant,
investigators found three large duffel bags in the basement
containing large amounts of U.S. Currency, vacuum sealed in
plastic bags and marked with monetary amounts on the outside
of each plastic bag. Investigators believe that the duffel
bags contain about $2.4 million dollars. Additionally,
investigators located a drug/money ledger inside of 106 John
Avenue, documenting just over $2.4 million dollars in
receipts from the sale of illegal drugs. Documents ...