United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VÁZQUEZ United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on defendant Jason Duran's
Motion to Suppress Statement and Evidence [Doc. 293] and
Motion to Suppress Evidence Based Upon Unlawful Tracking and
Electronic Communication Interception. [Doc. 305]. The United
States of America (“Government”) opposes both
motions. The Court conducted a hearing on the two motions on
May 31 and June 1, 2017.
reasons set forth below, both motions are denied.
case involves a drug trafficking operation in Taos County.
The Government contends that beginning at a date unknown and
continuing until December 18, 2015, brothers Ivan Romero and
Ricco Romero ran a drug distribution enterprise that employed
a network of dealers peddling heroin and other controlled
drugs. Informants reported to law enforcement agents that Mr.
Duran was procuring heroin from suppliers in Albuquerque and
delivering one to two pounds of it to Ivan Romero
approximately twice a month.
April 2, 2015, agents obtained a warrant from a New Mexico
state court district judge to search Ivan Romero's
residence in Taos County. Officers and agents of the Region
III Narcotics Task Force, Taos County Sheriff's
Department, the New Mexico State Police and the U.S.
Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Agency
(“DEA”) executed the warrant that evening, and
seized marijuana; drug trafficking instruments, supplies and
paraphernalia; $64, 920 in cash; 305.2 grams of heroin; and
numerous text messages between Ivan Romero and Mr. Duran were
recovered from the cell phones. According to the government,
although the text messages were in veiled or coded language,
they corroborated witnesses' reports of Mr. Duran's
role in the organization, specifically, that he repeatedly
procured heroin, and occasionally methamphetamine, from
suppliers around Albuquerque, transported the drugs (as well
as bags of dog food) to Ivan Romero in Taos, collected cash
from Ivan Romero and delivered the cash to the suppliers.
Ivan was arrested and charged in state court in Taos County
with drug trafficking offenses, and his bond was set at $90,
000. He bonded out the next day after other members of the
Romero family visited a Taos bank and exchanged $90, 000 in
U.S. currency for a bank check used to post his bond.
29, 2015, agents executed a federal search warrant at the
home of Wilma Romero (Ivan's and Ricco's mother) in
Arroyo Hondo and seized drug packaging materials and digital
scales, marijuana, ammunition, $73, 288 in U.S. currency,
gold ingots and coins and 97.5 grams of heroin.
investigators identified Mr. Duran's source of supply in
Albuquerque and conducted surveillance of Mr. Duran and the
supplier. To facilitate the surveillance, on September 28,
2015, they applied for and obtained federal tracking warrants
authorizing the installation of tracking devices on Mr.
Duran's Ford Mustang and Ford pickup.
13, 2015 Stop
to the government, on the evening of October 13, 2015, Mr.
Duran drove his Ford pickup to the residence of his heroin
supplier in Albuquerque. After parking his truck, he got out of
the vehicle and entered the residence. A few minutes later,
he emerged from the residence, got back into the truck and
drove to his own residence in Albuquerque. Later that
evening, Mr. Duran left his residence in his Ford Mustang and
headed north on I-25. DEA agents alerted New Mexico State
Police Officer Ronald Wood that Mr. Duran was believed to be
transporting heroin to the Romero organization in Taos.
approximately 10:14 p.m., Officer Wood observed Mr.
Duran's Ford Mustang traveling north on I-25 at a rate
seven miles over the speed limit. Officer Wood stopped the
car at milepost 257 in Sandoval County. Pamela Valdez,
Duran's girlfriend, was driving. She told the officer she
did not have a driver's license. She said she and Mr.
Duran were going to Taos to go pinon picking. Mr. Duran also
said he was going to Taos to go elk hunting. The officer
issued Valdez a citation for driving without a license and a
written warning for the speeding violation.
issuing the citation, the officer told Valdez she was free to
go and then inquired whether he could ask her additional
questions. She agreed, as did Mr. Duran. Officer Wood
questioned the two about why they did not have luggage.
Valdez said she did not know how long they were going to stay
in Taos and Mr. Duran said he had everything he needed at his
house in Taos. The officer, who had participated in the
investigation of the Romero drug trafficking operation,
suspected Mr. Duran was transporting heroin to Taos. Mr.
Duran and Valdez refused the officer's request to consent
to a search of the vehicle, but he advised them of his
suspicions and told them he was going to walk his drug
detection dog around the exterior of the vehicle. The dog
conducted a free air sniff of the exterior of the car and
alerted to the scent of a controlled substance. Officer Wood
then searched the vehicle and found several packages of
suspected heroin with an aggregate gross weight of 131 grams.
An additional 10.6 grams of suspected heroin was found in a
Duran and Valdez were detained and given Miranda
warnings. Mr. Duran initialed and signed an Advice of Rights
form acknowledging he understood his rights and waived them,
electing to speak with law enforcement agents. However,
expressing concern that his statements might be disclosed to
co-conspirators, he declined to be recorded while speaking
with investigators, and executed a written Recording
his interview, Mr. Duran told agents that Ricco Romero had
asked him to transport the heroin found in his car to Taos.
He said that Ricco had told him to pick up a discarded
McDonalds bag containing the heroin from the side of the road
in southwest Albuquerque and to transport it to Ricco in Taos
as a test run; if Ricco approved of the quality of the
heroin, Mr. Duran would transport kilogram quantities of
heroin to Ricco in the future. Mr. Duran provided agents with
telephone numbers for Ricco and Ivan Romero, and told them he
knew law enforcement agents had seized $90, 000 from a safe
that Ricco kept at his mother's home and that he also
stored money and rugs in a safe in his home and a safe at the
home of a man Mr. Duran only knew as “Ricky.” He
offered to cooperate with law enforcement, and said he would
be willing to make a controlled delivery for agents and would
remain in contact and provide information regarding any new
government avers that although many of Mr. Duran's
statements were “laden with half-truths, omissions and
outright falsehoods, ” the investigators let him go to
avoid compromising the ongoing investigation. [Doc. 310-1 at
17, 2015 Stop
government alleges Mr. Duran, without informing agents of his
trip, made another delivery to the Romeros on October 17,
2015. According to tracking data, he drove north to
Bernalillo (apparently to pick up bags of dog food from a
vendor), then doubled back and took back roads east of
Albuquerque north to Santa Fe. DEA agents alerted New Mexico
State Police to Mr. Duran's travel. State Police Officer
Nathan Lucero stopped Mr. Duran north of Espanola. Although a
drug detection dog alerted to the presence of a controlled
substance, the officers were unable to locate those drugs and
released Mr. Duran, who continued to Taos. Subsequently, a
cooperating witness or informant told agents that Mr. Duran
had been stopped by police while transporting heroin to Ricco
Romero, but the police had failed to find the heroin, which
Mr. Duran thereafter delivered to Ricco.
21, 2015 Meeting
the October 17 stop, DEA Agent Kevin Mondragan contacted Mr.
Duran by telephone and asked to meet with him. Mr. Duran met
with agents Mondragon and William Fresquez at a Hooter's
parking lot in Albuquerque on October 21, 2015. The agents
told Mr. Duran they knew he had not been truthful with them.
According to the agents, Mr. Duran confessed he had not been
completely forthright, and provided a more complete account
of the conspiracy. Among other things, he told the agents:
• He had been involved in the Romero drug trafficking
operation for about three years. Initially, he drove Elias
Romero (father of Ivan and Ricco) to Albuquerque about once
every week or week-and-a-half to purchase heroin from the
group's primary supplier. After Elias died in 2016, Ivan
Romero asked Mr. Duran to take on the responsibility of
dealing with suppliers and transporting heroin to Taos.
• Mr. Duran had picked up packages of heroin from the
primary supplier approximately 30 times. The size of the
packages increased over time. He estimated the larger
packages each contained two pounds of heroin.
• After the primary supplier was arrested and jailed on
state charges, the supplier's wife agreed to supply the
Romero operation. Mr. Duran said that he had picked up
packages from the wife approximately 40-50 times. He picked
up packages and transported them to Taos at least twice a
• Mr. Duran said he usually picked up bundles of money
from Ivan and delivered them to the primary supplier or his
wife. He helped Ivan count the money to be paid to the
supplier on several occasions, and he estimated that he
transported approximately $35, 000 per month to the heroin
• Mr. Duran admitted he had obtained the heroin seized
from his car on October 13, 2015, from the wife of his
the October 21, 2015 meeting, Mr. Duran renewed his promise
to cooperate. Subsequently, he met with Ricco Romero and, at
the request of the DEA agents, wore an audio recording
device, which recorded his conversation with Ricco.
Mr. Duran's Motion to Suppress Statements and Evidence
Duran, arguing he was coerced, seeks to suppress statements
he made during ...