Defense attorneys, ACLU seek to suppress evidence in fraud case

In a nutshell, the following is what criminal defense attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) object most to in a case involving identity theft and bank fraud.

Federal prosecutors sought a search warrant in 2008 in which they informed a magistrate that they were seeking to obtain information from the wireless carrier Verizon that would help them pinpoint the location of a suspect allegedly engaged in a number of white collar crime activities. The warrant was granted and the suspect found. He was charged in a 73-count indictment with scores of counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and other criminal counts.

What was subsequently discovered was that the government used what a recent motion to suppress evidence termed a “sophisticated, uniquely invasive technology that it never explained to the magistrate” to find the suspect.

Namely, and following their securing of a warrant, investigators employed what is called a “stingray” device to pinpoint the suspect’s location. That device is a high-tech and portable tool that simulates a cell-phone tower and can fit into a mobile truck.

Agents used it, states the motion, in a manner than indiscriminately sent signals into the homes, pockets, handbags and briefcases of thousands of third parties having nothing to do with the case. Defense attorneys and other friends of the court say that such liberal use — especially without divulging the technology to the magistrate in the first place — was an intrusive act of government overreaching and not supported by probable cause. The defense argues that all the evidence obtained against the suspect through use of the stingray is inadmissible.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “ID theft case uncovers new snooping gizmo,” Jamie Ross, April 1, 2013