United States District Court, D. Columbia
STEPHEN AGUIAR, Plaintiff, Pro se, PETERSBURG, VA.
DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, Defendant: Eric Joseph
Young, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil
Division, Washington, DC.
SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.
Stephen Aguiar brings this action against the Drug
Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) under the
Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C.
§ 552 et seq., challenging the DEA's
response to several of his FOIA requests. Between June 2013
and July 2014, plaintiff submitted multiple FOIA requests to
the DEA, all seeking information that had been collected by
the DEA during a criminal investigation that led to
plaintiff's indictment and conviction. In response,
the DEA has produced a number of records, but it has not
produced two items which plaintiff asked for: (1) four
administrative subpoenas; and (2) a CD with the GPS tracking
data obtained from plaintiff's vehicles along with
mapping software used by the DEA to create images from this
data at plaintiff's criminal trial. Before the Court is
defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Def.'s Mot.
for Summary Judgment, Apr. 8, 2015 [ECF No. 30].) For the
reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted.
Requests for Administrative Subpoenas
first FOIA request, dated June 6, 2013, asked for all DEA
reports " regarding any investigation and all
surveillance performed or conducted from March 1, 2009
through July 30, 2009" and all " reports
memorialized by the Drug Enforcement Administration Asset
Forfeiture Department." (Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick,
Chief of the FOIA/Privacy Act Unit at the DEA, Apr. 7, 2015
(attached to Def.'s Mot. for Summary Judgment) ("
Myrick Decl." ), Ex. A.) He subsequently "
reformulated" this request to specify that he was
seeking " all DEA Form 6 Report[s] of
Investigation" related to his criminal case and "
all civil forfeiture notices issued by the DEA Asset
Forfeiture Section" relating to the seizure of his
automobile and $60,000 in cash. ( Id. Ex. C.)
Then, in a
letter dated August 1, 2013, he added a request for "
any administrative subpoena form issued by any DEA Agent
operating out of the Burlington, Vermont Regional Office
between the dates of: December 19, 2008 and October 19,
2009." ( Id. Ex. E.)
letter dated September 10, 2013, the DEA notified plaintiff
that in response to his June and July requests (its response
did not expressly mention plaintiff's August 1
supplemental request), it had located " four (4) files
pertaining to you," processed two (2) of those files,
and identified 338 pages of responsive records,
232 pages of which were being withheld in
full pursuant to various FOIA exemptions and 106 pages of
which were being released (2 pages in their entirety and 104
pages with redactions). ( Id. ¶ 10 & Ex. F.)
Initially, the DEA advised plaintiff that it would search the
remaining two files upon receipt of money to cover the search
costs, but it subsequently concluded that the files covered
dates that were not within the parameters of plaintiff's
requests. ( Id. Exs. F, H.)
documents released by the DEA in September 2013 included
several administrative subpoenas, with dates ranging from
January 9, 2009 to March 1, 2011. ( See
Vaughn Index at 151-59.) Plaintiff, however,
believed that other administrative subpoenas existed and
should have been produced, and he filed an appeal with the
Office of Information Policy, challenging the DEA's
production as " incomplete." (Myrick Decl. Ex. I.)
On January 27, 2014, the OIP notified plaintiff that it was
affirming the DEA's action, concluding (without further
explanation) that the DEA had " conducted an adequate
reasonable search for [responsive] records." (
Id. Ex. K.)
plaintiff's appeal to OIP was still pending, he submitted
another request to the DEA for administrative subpoenas, this
time asking for all subpoenas issued between December 19,
2008, and March 28, 2011, as part of the DEA's
investigation of him. ( Id. Ex. X.) The DEA informed
plaintiff that because it believed that he was attempting to
avoid fees by dividing a single request into a series of
requests, it would " aggregate" this request with
his earlier requests and not initiate processing until
plaintiff remitted the estimated fees. ( Id. Ex. Y.)
No further action was taken on this request.
on April 28, 2014, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request
requesting four specific administrative subpoenas:
1. One January 2009 DEA subpoena issued for my 617-549-2915
2. One March 2009 DEA subpoena issued for my Experian credit
3. One April 2009 DEA subpoena issued for my Equifax credit
4. One April 2009 DEA subpoena issued for my Trans-Union
( Id. Ex. BB.) The DEA acknowledged receipt of this
request and stated that it would proceed with processing it,
although it advised plaintiff that its response might be
delayed due to its backlog. ( Id. Ex. CC.) Plaintiff
responded by sending the DEA letter " to clarify . . .
the limited scope of [his] FOIA request." ( Id.
Ex. DD.) On July 28, 2014, plaintiff sent a letter inquiring
as to the status of this request ( Id. Ex. EE), but
he never received a formal response from the DEA or copies of
the records he had requested.
Request for CD with GPS Tracking Data and Associated Mapping
August 2013, plaintiff submitted a request to the DEA for:
[a] CD from DEA containing the DEA computer file of all
tracking information collected via GPS devices attached to my
vehicles with all images and proprietary software associated
with that information from January 23, 2009 thru July 30,
2009, the very same file used by DEA to prepare exhibits for
( Id. Ex. L. Initially, the DEA told plaintiff that
it had " received a copy of a CD that we believe may be
responsive to the subject of your request," but that
" to process the CD, DEA will require the services of an
outside audio/video contractor." ( Id. Ex. O,
at 2.) The DEA informed plaintiff that the estimated cost for
this service, which plaintiff would have to pay in advance,
would be $608.25 ($8.25 for the reproduction and $600 for the
post-production editing/review). ( Id. Ex. O, at 2.)
After further correspondence and litigation about the fee,
though, the DEA informed plaintiff that it had "
conducted a preliminary review of the CD in an effort to
reduce the initial estimated fees" and " learned
that the CD contained formatted spreadsheets of the tracking
data related to the subject of [plaintiff's]
request."  ( Id. Ex. Z, at 2.) It
produced all of this data to plaintiff in hard copy (351
pages) at no cost. ( Id.) The DEA simultaneously
informed plaintiff that that " no records were located
related to any ...