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United States v. Vang

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 22, 2017

PHOUA VANG, Defendant.


          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         Defendant Phoua Vang (“Vang”) is charged by indictment with one count of distribution and attempted distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), and 846. (Docket #1). The narcotics were located in a parcel shipped by Vang from California to Wisconsin. A postal inspector performed a warrantless search of the parcel and discovered them. Before the Court is the March 31, 2017 report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge David E. Jones as to Vang's motion to suppress, which he recommends should be granted. (Docket #33). The government filed an objection thereto on April 13, 2017, (Docket #34), Vang responded on April 27, 2017, (Docket #35), and the government declined to reply. The objection is now fully briefed and, for the reasons stated below, the objection will be overruled.


         Jeffrey Metke (“Metke”) has worked as an inspector for the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) for approximately two years. Before moving to the USPS, Metke worked for twenty years in law enforcement, primarily in drug-trafficking investigations. As a postal inspector, Metke specializes in uncovering illegal controlled substances sent through the mail. He has discovered more than sixty such packages so far.

         On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Metke recovered a package flagged for investigation from the USPS distribution facility in Milwaukee. The mailing label on the package listed the sender and recipient as follows:

FROM: Lisa Yang 1112 n. Ficher #101 Fresno, CA 93702
TO: Mike Chung 1608 N. 33rd St. Milwaukee, Wi 53208

         The package was dropped off at a California post office within zip code 93701 on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 10:46.[1] It was sent via express mail, which provides guaranteed delivery by 10:30 a.m. the following day. The package weighed over fourteen pounds and cost $107.30 to ship.

         Metke determined that the package had many of the characteristics of a typical drug package. He testified that postal inspectors commonly intercept packages containing narcotics which are sent by express mail, weigh over five pounds, and cost more than $50 to ship. Metke also noted the package was sent from California, a known source state for narcotics for Wisconsin. Additionally, the package was mailed from a post office with a zip code different from the listed sender's zip code. Metke testified that drug traffickers often employ this strategy in mailing narcotics to distance themselves from the package, should it be inspected.

         Further, although the mailing label on the package had spaces for a phone number for both the sender and recipient, no telephone numbers were provided. And no signature was required upon delivery, even though that service was free due to the cost of shipping. Metke opined that drug traffickers may not include their contact information or request a signature at delivery, again in order to obscure their identities.

         After recovering the package from the distribution facility, Metke researched the information listed for the sender and the recipient. Metke testified that drug traffickers often manipulate the parcel recipient's name as well as the name and address of the sender. Oftentimes there are only slight changes in a name or address, and these serve to conceal the parties responsible for the drug package.

         First, Metke researched the recipient address using the Wisconsin Department of Transportation database and the Thompson Reuters CLEAR database. He determined that the recipient address, 1608 North 33rd Street, was a valid address in Milwaukee, but there was no record of a Mike Chung associated with that address. In fact, no one with the name Mike (or Michael) Chung had ever registered a vehicle or requested a driver's license or identification card in Wisconsin, and there was no record of a Mike or Michael Chung living in Wisconsin during the last twenty-five years.

         Metke next determined that the sender's address, 1112 North Ficher Street, was not a valid address in Fresno and that a Lisa Yang was not associated with that address. Metke researched the Ficher Street address using the USPS address database, Google Maps, Yahoo, and the Thompson Reuters CLEAR database. Although Ficher Street does not exist in Fresno, a Google Maps or Yahoo search for “1112 n. Ficher #101, Fresno, CA 93702” returns as the very first item a valid address for “1112 North Fisher Street #101, Fresno, CA 93702.” At the evidentiary hearing, Metke could not recall whether either search engine returned such results during his initial research.

         The same day he recovered the package and conducted his research, Metke attempted delivery at the 33rd Street address in Milwaukee. A woman answered the door and indicated that neither Mike Chung nor any other Chung lived at that residence. She further stated that she did not know anyone in ...

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