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United States v. Ocegueda

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

March 25, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JUSTIN JAMES OCEGUEDA, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HUGO PAGE SANTOS, Defendant-Appellant.

D.C. Nos. 2:12-CR–00606-RJS-3 D. Utah, 2:12-CR-00606-RJS-1 D. Utah

Before BRISCOE, Chief Judge, SEYMOUR and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

ORDER AND JUDGMENT [*]

Mary Beck Briscoe, Chief Judge

Defendants Justin Ocegueda and Hugo Santos, each of whom entered a conditional guilty plea to possessing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), appeal from the district court's denial of their joint motion to suppress evidence. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

I

Factual background

On September 23, 2012, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Ron Anson, based in Utah, was informed by a confidential informant (CI) with whom he had previously worked that an individual known by the name of "Brandon" could deliver approximately eight pounds of methamphetamine to the CI. Based upon this information, Anson directed the CI to report to Anson's office the following day, September 24, 2012.

At Anson's office, the CI made phone calls to Brandon regarding the purchase of methamphetamine. Anson recorded those conversations. During the recorded phone conversations, Brandon told the CI that the methamphetamine had been transported from California and that the transaction would take place later that same day at a hotel in Lehi, Utah.

Anson and other DEA task force members established surveillance of the area surrounding the hotel in Lehi. Two cars with California license plates were parked at the hotel. One of the vehicles was a silver Nissan Altima; the other vehicle was a red Ford Focus. A task force agent observed two individuals, later identified as Ocegueda and Santos, transfer something from the Nissan Altima to the Ford Focus and then drive the Ford Focus from the hotel to the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.

At approximately this same time, the CI, who had been outfitted by task force members with transmitting and recording devices, arrived at the area in a vehicle and parked in a Utah Transit Authority Park and Ride lot (Park and Ride lot) near the restaurant. The CI then received a phone call from Brandon directing the CI to drive to the restaurant parking lot where Ocegueda and Santos were waiting. The CI complained to Brandon that there were too many people in the restaurant parking lot and suggested that the meeting occur at the Park and Ride lot instead. Brandon agreed. Thereafter, Ocegueda, with Santos in the passenger seat, drove the Ford Focus from the restaurant parking lot to the Park and Ride lot. Ocegueda ultimately located the CI's vehicle on the north side of the Park and Ride lot and parked next to it.

Ocegueda got out of the Ford Focus, walked to the CI's vehicle, and sat down inside it. Ocegueda then handed the CI a cell phone. Brandon was on the other end of the cell phone and informed the CI that he would not be coming to participate in the transaction, and that Ocegueda and Santos would instead handle the deal.

With that, Ocegueda got out of the CI's vehicle, walked to the back of the Ford Focus, opened the trunk, and pulled out a large bag. Ocegueda returned to the CI's vehicle with the bag and discussed with the CI the drugs that were contained in the bag. Ocegueda and the CI then cut into one of several wrapped packages contained in the bag so that the CI could purportedly assess the quality of the methamphetamine. The CI, upon observing the drugs contained in the package, spoke briefly with Ocegueda about their quality. During that conversation, the CI stated "this shit looks really good." App. at 127. That statement, per Anson's instructions to the CI prior to the transaction, served as the CI's signal to the task force members that drugs had been received and positively identified.

Anson and the other task force members proceeded to arrest Ocegueda and Santos in the Park and Ride lot. At the time of their arrest, Santos was sitting in the driver's seat of the Ford Focus and Ocegueda was sitting in the passenger's seat. A search of the Ford Focus following the arrests produced 5, 000 grams of methamphetamine.

Subsequent investigation by task force agents revealed that the Ford Focus was owned by a California resident named Geneva Bustamonte and had been driven from California to Utah by a women named Nicole Flores. The investigation also ...


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