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United States v. Caternor

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 11, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DANIEL CATERNOR, Defendant.

          DETENTION MEMORANDUM

          G. MICHAEL HARVEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the application of the United States that Defendant, Daniel Caternor (“Caternor”), be detained pending trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142. The Grand Jury charges Caternor by Indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one hundred grams or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B)(i) and 846, and one count of distributing heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). The Court held a detention hearing for Caternor on August 24, 2017. At the conclusion of that hearing and upon consideration of the proffers and arguments of counsel and the entire record herein, the Court ordered Caternor held without bail pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3142(e).[1] This memorandum is submitted in compliance with the statutory obligation that “the judicial officer shall . . . include written findings of fact and a written statement of the reasons for the detention.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(i)(1). The findings of fact and statements of reasons in support of pretrial detention follow.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         At the detention hearing, the United States proceeded by proffer based on the Indictment. The defense offered no contrary evidence on the merits of the offense, nor challenged any aspect of the government's factual proffer. Accordingly, the Court makes the following findings of fact regarding the government's allegations.

         A. The Government's Investigation

         Caternor, a citizen of Ghana and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, has been accused of conspiring to traffic and actually trafficking large quantities of heroin in the Washington, D.C. area with Asare, his Co-Defendant.[2] According to the government's proffer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) began investigating Caternor in April of 2016. On April 12, 2016, a cooperating witness (“CW”) purchased approximately twenty-five grams of heroin for $2, 250 from Caternor at the direction of the FBI. The FBI captured both an audio recording and video surveillance of this transaction, observing Caternor drive into a parking lot in Maryland, exit his car and enter the CW's parked car in the same lot, and then exit the CW's car and drive away in his car. During the transaction, Caternor told the CW that he was interested in selling larger quantities of heroin, explaining that selling smaller quantities was less profitable.

         Two days later, the CW purchased another twenty-five grams of heroin from Caternor in the same location. Audio recording and video surveillance of this transaction show Caternor pulling into the parking lot in the same car as before, exiting that car, and entering the CW's parked car. In the CW's car, Caternor handed the CW a plastic bag containing an off-white powdery substance in exchange for $2, 000. Caternor again expressed a desire to sell larger amounts of narcotics, explaining to the CW that if he was selling less than “50”-meaning less than fifty grams of heroin-then the sale was not worth his time. Caternor then exited the CW's car and drove away. The powdery substance that Caternor sold to the CW tested positive for opiates.

         On May 5, 2016, the CW called Caternor to arrange another heroin purchase. On the call, which the FBI recorded, Caternor referenced the prospect of the CW purchasing “50 doors, ” which law enforcement believes is a term used to refer to fifty grams of heroin. The next day, FBI captured audio recording and video surveillance of Caternor and the CW meeting in the same parking lot. Caternor arrived in a different car, parked next to the CW, and entered the CW's car. While in the CW's car, Caternor told the CW that a male-later identified as Asare-was sitting in another car across the parking lot, and that the man was Caternor's associate. Caternor told the CW that Asare would be able to sell the CW drugs in the future if he was unavailable. According to the government's proffer, Caternor then spoke to Asare, who had apparently exited his car, through the window of the CW's car in a foreign language, and Asare tossed a plastic bag containing a tan, powdery substance into the CW's car. In exchange, the CW gave Caternor $4, 000. Additionally, Caternor informed the CW during this transaction that the CW could purchase the same quantity of heroin in the future by sending him a text message containing the terms “doors” or “50.” After Caternor and Asare left the parking lot, law enforcement tested the substance that Asare tossed into the CW's car and determined that it tested positive for opiates.

         The CW called Caternor to arrange another heroin purchase on September 15, 2016. During the recorded call, the CW and Caternor reached an agreement in which the CW could purchase 100 grams of heroin for the price of seventy-five grams, with the understanding that the CW would pay for the additional twenty-five grams within a week of the initial transaction. To complete the purchase, Caternor instructed the CW to meet an unknown individual at a Costco in Washington, D.C. At 11:15 AM that day, the CW drove into the Costco parking lot and parked while FBI agents surveilled him. Another individual, later identified as Asare, arrived in a black sedan and parked next to the CW. Asare then got out of his car and got into the CW's car. Audio recording of the interaction establishes that the CW gave Asare $6, 000 in exchange for a bag containing a powdery substance. Caternor was listening to this transaction through the CW's car's speaker system, having previously called the CW's cell phone. After the transaction, the CW confirmed that Asare was the seller, and law enforcement determined that the substance was heroin.

         On January 12, 2017, the CW called Asare at the direction of law enforcement to arrange a time to meet so that the CW could purchase “50 doors, ” meaning fifty grams of heroin. The next day, the two met in the same Costco parking lot. Law enforcement observed Asare park next to the CW's car, get out of his car, and enter the CW's car. During the transaction, Asare told the CW that he thought the CW was interested in discussing business only, so no transaction occurred. To make up for the misunderstanding, Asare told the CW that he would “front” an additional thirty grams of heroin at the next transaction.

         Less than a week later, on January 18, 2017, the CW sent Asare a text message asking to meet on January 24, 2017 to purchase heroin. Based on their previous discussion, the CW agreed to purchase fifty grams of heroin with the understanding that Asare would provide the CW with an additional thirty grams of heroin that the CW would pay for at a later date. The two met at the same Costco parking lot as before on January 24, 2017, and audio recording and video surveillance of their interaction establishes that the CW handed Asare $4, 000 in exchange for a plastic bag containing an off-white, powdery substance. A subsequent analysis of the substance revealed that it was approximately seventy-nine grams of heroin. On February 9, 2017, the CW met Asare at the same parking lot and provided him with $2, 400 for the additional thirty grams of heroin that Asare supplied on January 27, 2017, consistent with their agreement.

         On April 4, 2017, the CW received a text message from Asare asking “[h]ow many doors, ” meaning grams of heroin, the CW wanted to purchase. The CW requested to speak with Asare instead, and the two met in the Costco parking lot that same day to discuss the possibility of the CW purchasing 500 grams or more of heroin. According to the government's proffer, Asare agreed to provide the CW with 500 grams of heroin and offered to “front” the CW an additional 200 grams of heroin, which the CW would pay for on a later date. At one point during this meeting, Asare called an unknown individual using the FaceTime feature on his cell phone and the two spoke in Twi, a Ghanaian language. Based on a translation of that conversation, which law enforcement recorded, Asare told the individual that the CW was attempting to gather the funds to purchase “one kilo.” The individual on the phone instructed Asare to ask the CW when the CW would be ready to make that purchase, and the CW explained that it would be a few weeks before the CW could gather enough money. The CW asked Asare how much a kilo of narcotics would cost, suggesting “seventy, ” and Asare responded “yeah.”

         On July 6, 2017, the CW arranged to meet with Asare on July 11, 2017 through text messages to purchase 100 grams of heroin. One of the CW's text messages read “130 same spot…near gas station. My truck will need a 100 in gas…lol, ” to which Asare responded “Ok.” The two met on July 11, 2017 to complete the transaction, and law enforcement surveilled the meeting. The CW informed Asare that the CW only had “4, ” meaning $4, 000, and that the CW would pay for the rest of the narcotics the following week. Asare agreed to that arrangement and told the CW that he brought with him 150 grams of heroin, which he gave to the CW for $4, 000. According to the government's proffer, Caternor supplied the heroin that Asare sold to the CW. After the transaction, the CW asked Asare if the CW could purchase 700 grams of heroin in August of 2017, and Asare advised that such a transaction would be possible. Asare also told the CW that he was “getting the girls, too, ” which law enforcement believes was an offer to sell the CW cocaine.

         In addition to recording these drug transactions, law enforcement obtained and executed a warrant to search Caternor's apartment as part of its investigation. During the search, law enforcement recovered multiple blank credit cards and a credit card reading machine. Based on the above evidence, a Grand Jury returned an Indictment in August 2017, charging Caternor with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one hundred grams or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B)(i) and 846, and one count of distributing heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ ...


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