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United States v. Green

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

April 15, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendant Brittany Nicole Green's motion to suppress evidence. (Doc. 43). The parties urged the Court to determine this motion without holding an evidentiary hearing because the parties did not dispute any issues of material fact. Accordingly, the Court opted to forego an evidentiary hearing. See United States v. Walczak, 783 F.2d 852, 856 (9th Cir. 1986) (the district court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing on a motion to suppress when no controverted facts were at issue regarding the validity of the search). Having read and reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, this Court now DENIES Brittany Green's motion.

         I. Facts

         On December 18, 2018, a truck carrying mail from Canada to the United States entered Port Huron, Michigan. (Doc. 44-1 at 5). During a Customs and Border Patrol narcotics examination, law enforcement discovered a package labeled "Organic Fitness Vitamin" originating out of Ontario, Canada, and addressed to Gregory Green at Westwood Drive, in Billings, Montana. (Id.). Inside, law enforcement discovered a second vacuum-sealed package containing Xanax, a Schedule VI controlled substance. Officers turned the package over to a Homeland Security Investigator who concluded that the parcel contained 1, 471 pills. Homeland Security seized the pills and sent them, along with the original packaging, to the Billings Task Force for further investigation. (Id.).

         After the package arrived in Billings, Task Force agents contacted the United States Postal Inspector for Montana, Walt Tubbs. Tubbs advised the agents that 112 packages had been shipped to the same address between December 20, 2017 and December 20, 2018. Tubbs agreed to assist in making a controlled delivery at a later date. (Id.). Agents found a Gregory P. Green listed at the same address listed on the package. Gregory Green's criminal history check revealed he had arrests for arson, theft and disorderly conduct some twenty years prior. (Id. at 6).

         After including this information in an application for a search warrant, on January 2, 2019, Officer Michael Robinson sought and was granted an anticipatory search warrant for Green's house from Thirteenth Judicial District Judge Donald Harris. The anticipatory warrant was contingent on a package containing 50 Xanax pills being delivered and accepted into the residence. (Doc. 44-2).

         On January 3, 2019, officers conducted surveillance on Gregory Green's house and saw an older female leave the house and go to the mailbox. Shortly thereafter, the postal inspector delivered the package to the house. The older female answered the door, took the package and brought it inside. After this, agents knocked on the door to execute the search warrant. The female answered the door and the agents entered the house. (Doc. 44-1 at 6).

         In addition to the female that had answered the door, agents located Gregory Green in an upstairs office, and Gregory's adult daughter, Brittany Green, in a downstairs bedroom. All three individuals were taken outside to be identified and questioned. Both Greens were arrested and taken into custody. The female told agents that she had met Gregory Green approximately twenty years ago and that they were in a loving but not intimate relationship. She told agents that she and Gregory had moved to the house in June 2017, and that Gregory managed her social security account and handled the bills. She did not know what he did for a living. She told the agents that Brittany had moved in a while ago and stayed in the basement. (Id. at 6-7).

         When agents asked the female about the packages coming to the house, she could not provide any information. She denied knowing about any drug use or distribution from the home. Law enforcement took her to another location while the house was searched. (Id. at 7).

         While conducting a safety sweep and clearing the basement, the agents saw that the living room and adjacent bedroom were "littered with drugs and drug paraphernalia" including what agents "originally believed to be a clandestine methamphetamine lab." (Id.). Agents contacted the Billings Fire Department and Hazardous Materials team who assisted in determining if the basement posed a safety risk. Although the team determined the house was safe to enter, agents were advised to complete the search warrant with proper personnel protection equipment. (Id.).

         During the search, agents noticed that the computer in Gregory Green's room displayed the "dark web" and showed a screen indicating that he was selling Xanax to people across the country. Agents also located a sealed package that appeared ready to mail in Gregory Green's office. Inside, the package was a plastic wrapped box containing a sealed baggie. In the sealed baggie was approximately seven grams of suspected methamphetamine and two Xanax bars. Further search of the office turned up approximately 100 grams of suspected methamphetamine and several thousand Xanax bars. (Id.).

         In the basement, agents discovered approximately 122 grams of suspected methamphetamine, ketamine, carfentanil and other controlled drugs. A sample of the suspected methamphetamine was tested and registered positive for methamphetamine. Agents also found hundreds of feet of glass tubing for glass pipes, a 100-pound butane tank and instructions for Brittany Green on how to combine drugs for distribution. Throughout the rest of the house, Agents located hundreds of items of drug paraphernalia. Agents also found large amounts of packing material for sending items through the mail.

         As agents were searching the residence, a United States Postal Service mailman delivered four packages and two letters to the Greens' mailbox. Sergeant Jagers removed three packages from the mailbox that were similar in size, shape, and color to the package seized in Michigan. The packages were from the same sender and Canadian address. The mailbox also contained a priority 2-day package from Portland, Oregon, an envelope from the Netherlands, and an envelope from India. All the mail was addressed to Gregory Green. Officers seized the mail pending an application for a search warrant. (Id. at 8-9).

         On January 9, 2019, Agent Robinson applied for, and was granted, a search warrant for the mail seized. (Doc. 44-3 at 17). Robinson discovered more Xanax pills in the three packages from Canada, bringing the total No. of pills up to approximately 4, 500. The Portland package contained 16 grams of an unknown tan substance concealed within several layers of packaging. The letter from India contained a package labeled "phenobarbitone tablets" concealed in several layers of packaging. The Netherlands letter contained a tin foil package with an unknown substance. Believing all the substances to be controlled, agents sent them to the DEA laboratory for analysis. (Doc. 52 at 7; Doc. 44-3 at 18).

         On January 9, 2019, Agent Robinson applied for, and was granted, a second warrant to search the Green residence, this time from United States Magistrate Judge Cavan. (Doc. 44-4). Brittany Green moves to ...

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