CA4: $41,000 cash could be seized in execution of a warrant for marriage and immigration fraud based on def’s explanation

$41,000 cash could be seized in execution of a warrant for marriage and immigration fraud even though its evidentiary significance wasn’t instantly obvious. United States v. Kimble, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7776 (4th Cir. May 2, 2017):

Apart from seeking to narrow the scope of the warrant, Defendant argues that—even if the warrant encompassed evidence related to her alleged marriage and immigration fraud—the seizure of the cash violated the Fourth Amendment because the agents initially seized it as evidence of suspected drug activity, not as evidence of any of the offenses set forth in the warrant. We disagree.

“[T]he scope of a search conducted pursuant to a warrant is defined objectively by the terms of the warrant and the evidence sought, not by the subjective motivations of an officer.” Williams, 592 F.3d at 522 (citing authorities); see also United States v. Srivastava, 540 F.3d 277, 287 (4th Cir. 2008) (“In analyzing the constitutionality of a search warrant’s execution, we must conduct an objective assessment of the executing officer’s actions in light of the facts and circumstances confronting him at the time, rather than make a subjective evaluation of the officer’s actual state of mind at the time the challenged action was taken.” (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71 (1985))). Accordingly, to determine whether the agents lawfully seized the cash in Defendant’s laundry basket, we must consider whether the seized cash objectively constituted potential “[f]ruits, evidence and instrumentalities of marriage fraud, false statement[s], unlawful procurement of citizenship, [or] perjury.” J.A. 44. Or, as set out in Attachment B, whether a reasonable officer conducting the search could believe the cash to constitute potential “evidenc[e of] the obtaining, secreting, transferring, concealment and/or expenditure of illegal proceeds” of such crimes. J.A. 46. We conclude that a reasonable officer could.

Although “not every item that falls within the language of the warrant will prove probative in a future criminal prosecution, … the evidentiary significance of each and every item may not be instantly apparent” during the course of a search. Phillips, 588 F.3d at 224. As a result, items seized pursuant to a validly issued warrant are “not required, on their face, to necessarily constitute evidence of [an offense identified in the relevant warrant]—rather, they only potentially ha[ve] to be evidence of such [offense].” Srivastava, 540 F.3d at 291 (emphasis added). Moreover, we have observed that, “[o]ften, a single piece of evidence will be probative of multiple crimes, especially in cases … which involve intricate, interweaving, and extensive financial fraud schemes.” Phillips, 588 F.3d at 224 (finding that evidence seized to prove securities fraud fell under scope of warrant targeting evidence of credit card fraud); see also Srivastava, 540 F.3d at 287-91 (permitting seizure of defendant’s personal tax records under warrant targeting business’s medical billing practices where defendant operated business as a sole proprietorship).

Viewed in this light, the seized cash fell within the scope of the warrant. In particular, given the large quantity of cash at issue, as well as Defendant’s unusual explanation for the source of the funds, an agent executing the warrant could reasonably have concluded that the more-than $41,000 in cash Defendant voluntarily revealed at the outset of the search was potentially proceeds of marriage and immigration fraud, i.e., cash received as payment for Defendant’s participation in the scheme to obtain a fraudulent green card for Mamah. Consequently, because the challenged seizure did not exceed the scope of the warrant, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence arising from that initial seizure.

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