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United States v. Centeno

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

March 29, 2019



          Brian Morris United States District Court Judge.

          Defendants Roel Centeno and Carolina Christina Ramirez (collectively “Defendants”) separately move this Court to suppress evidence obtained subsequent to a warrantless search of two hotel rooms at the Extended Stay Hotel (“Extended Stay”) in Great Falls, Montana. (Docs. 79, 86.) Ramirez further moves this Court to sever her case from that of her codefendant Centeno's. (Doc. 82.) The Court conducted a hearing on the instant motions on January 23, 2019. (Doc. 95.)


         Extended Stay staff shared concerns of “suspicious activity” that occurred in relation to Michael Laird's sojourn at the Extended Stay. (Doc. 96 at 10-12.) Jillian Arnold, a manager at the Extended Stay, and one of the front desk clerks informed Mike Sadowsky of their collective observations. Id. at 11-12. Sadowsky serves as a maintenance engineer at the Extended Stay. Id. at 8.

         Laird rented two adjoining rooms-225 and 227-from February 28, 2018, to March 3, 2018. (Docs. 87 at 2, 94 at 15.) Laird used a temporary Wells Fargo card to rent both rooms. (Doc. 94 at 5-6.) Laird checked into the Extended Stay using a California driver's license. (Doc. 93.) Two vehicles were connected with the rooms-a white Cadillac with Montana plates and a white Nissan with California plates. (Doc. 94 at 5.) Hotel employees relayed to Sadowsky that only Laird occupied room 225-a room with two beds. (Doc. 96 at 13.) Ramirez, a guest of Laird's, occupied room 227. Id. at 13-14. Though, neither hotel staff, nor Sadowsky, observed anybody “coming out of 227” during the course of Laird's stay. Id. at 13.

         Sadowsky determined that the personal observations of the hotel staff warranted a check on room 227. Id. Sadowsky devised a plan to enter room 227 under the guise of needing to clean the smoke detector. Id. at 15. Shortly before 10:00 a.m. on March 2, 2018, Sadowsky knocked on room 227's door as Arnold said “management.” (Docs. 95 at 2, 96 at 14.) Ramirez responded with either “hang on” or “just a second.” (Doc. 96 at 14.)

         Ramirez opened the door an estimated thirty to forty-five seconds later with a comforter wrapped around her shoulders. Id. at 14, 15. Sadowsky presumed that Ramirez was undressed under the comforter. (Docs. 96 at 15, 93.) Sadowsky further noted that Ramirez looked “younger” though Sadowsky was unable to tell her age. (Doc. 96 at 17.) Ramirez allowed Sadowsky to enter room 227 to clean the smoke detector. See id. at 15.

         Sadowsky, once inside the room, climbed up a ladder to clean the smoke detector. (Doc. 96 at 15.) From this vantage point, Sadowsky observed “one small package of noodles . . . sitting on top of the refrigerator” and a “Victoria's Secret bag” in the room. Id. at 16. Sadowsky observed no other personal belongings. Id. Ramirez made a phone call while Sadowsky cleaned the smoke detector. Id. at 17. Sadowsky recounted that Ramirez spoke Spanish, and that Ramirez sounded “nervous” and “startled.” (Docs. 93, 96 at 16, 123.)

         Sadowsky also investigated the two vehicles connected with rooms 225 and 227. (Doc. 94 at 5.) Sadowsky walked outside the parking lot to write down the license plate numbers of both vehicles. (Docs. 94 at 5, 96 at 20.) Sadowsky aborted the investigation, however, when he observed room 225's guest, whom he believed to be Laird, “pacing nervously” and watching Sadowsky from the room. (Docs. 94 at 5, 96 at 20-21.)

         The Great Falls Police Department (“GFPD”) received a 911 call from Arnold and Sadowsky on March 2, 2018, at approximately 10:10 a.m. (Docs. 93, 95.) The following is an uncertified transcript of the 911 call:

Dispatch: Police Dispatch.
Arnold: Hi, this is Jillian Arnold calling from the Extended Stay here in Great Falls. I just had well I'm wondering if we can get an unmarked car here I just need to file a report with a police officer.
Dispatch: Uh, what kind of report?
Arnold: It's suspicious activity in our hotel.
Dispatcher: Going on right now?
Arnold: (intelligible)
Sadowsky: Hello?
Dispatcher: So, what's going on?
Sadowsky: Well, we've got people registered from California here and we've got one guy that's in a room with two beds by himself and then we found out that he has a second room that he's using, and we've not seen anybody for two days come in or out of that room. So, I used the excuse that I had to go in and check the smoke detector to enter into that room. When I entered that room, there was just a female by herself. She has no luggage that I could see. She was undressed and had to have a comforter wrapped around her. She has no belongings, except for a couple of Victoria Secret bags in the room. And she was really nervous and when I was in there cleaning it and trying to look from the ladder and see if there was anything else in there, she got on the phone and was speaking in Spanish I think she was contacting the guy from the other room. We've got to cars out here - one from California and one from Montana and I've got plate numbers. I thought maybe we can get those to the officers. We're afraid that if like a regular patrol car comes here we're going to…
Dispatcher: Okay, well we don't have any unmarked vehicles that can come take a report from you, like, they would need to…
Sadowsky: Okay. Could he park…could he park at our side entrance? They're from California and we're just worried about some kind of violent thing going on if they…
Dispatcher: And you said you're at the Extended Stay?
Sadowsky: Yeah, and it might be nothing, but you find a young girl in a room with no clothes and just wrapped in a comforter…no belongings…
Dispatcher: What's the address there?
Sadowsky: 800 River Drive South.
Dispatcher: What room is she staying in?
Sadowsky: She is in 227 and he is in 225. It's just either some kind of drug trafficking or human trafficking. She looks…and I couldn't tell her age, but she looked fairly young. Zero personal items except for Victoria Secret bags. We're just afraid to set them off with a patrol car in our parking lot.
Dispatcher: Are you going to be at the front desk or anything to meet an officer?
Sadowsky: Yeah, but we prefer to talk to him in a different room, not right here in the lobby. The guy comes down through the lobby quite often. And he is the only one that comes down. The girl has never been down or out of the room.
Dispatcher: What's that male's name?
Sadowsky: The male's name? What is it? (intelligible off phone conversation with Arnold) Michael Laird L-A-I-R-D. He has California license with a Montana plate car. A Cadillac.
Dispatcher: And can I get your name?
Sadowsky: My name is Mike.
Dispatcher: Last name?
Sadowsky: Sadowsky S-a-d-o-w-s-k-y.
Dispatcher: And a phone number ...

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