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United States v. Verges

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

January 12, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
KENIA Y. VERGES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHEIRS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Government's Motion in Limine to Preclude Reference to Defendant Verges's Infant Child, [Dkt. 43], and Motion in Limine to Permit Government Witnesses, [Dkt. 44]. Also before the Court is Defendant Alicia Rivera's Motion to Exclude the Government's Drug Expert, [Dkt. 53]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Government's motions in limine, and deny Defendant Rivera's motion to exclude.

I. Background

Defendants in this case, Alicia Rivera ("Rivera") and Kenia Verges ("Verges"), have been charged with one count of conspiracy to import narcotics. (Superseding Indictment [Dkt. 15] at 1.) The Government alleges that Defendants acted as couriers to smuggle heroin from Guatemala. With regard to the conspiracy, the indictment specifically provides:

3. One of the ways co-conspirators in Guatemala supplied heroin to co-conspirators in the United States was through the use of human couriers. In order to avoid the detection of law enforcement, members of the conspiracy hid the heroin within, among other items, seemingly innocent packing for foodstuffs, which couriers smuggled in their luggage.... Couriers arrived at various airports within the United States, to include Washington Dulles International Airport, located within the Eastern District of Virginia....
4. Members of the conspiracy recruited people to be couriers by promising to pay them several thousand dollars in U.S. currency. Couriers tended to be Spanish-speaking citizens of the United States who resided in and around the metropolitan area of Providence, Rhode Island.
5. Members of the conspiracy made the travel arrangements on behalf of the couriers and also paid the expenses associated with their travel to and from Guatemala. While in Guatemala, couriers stayed on properties owned or controlled by a leader of the conspiracy who resides in Guatemala and whose identity is known to the Grand Jury as ("Co-Conspirator A")....
6. After a courier arrived back in the United States, members of the conspiracy met with them and took possession of the heroin. Typically these meetings took place at hotels and motels in the vicinity of the airport where the courier landed. Because couriers often arrived at airports far from where they lived, members of the conspiracy would also drive couriers home. Couriers were paid several thousand dollars in U.S. currency for successfully smuggling the heroin.
7. Once heroin was successfully imported into the United States, members of the conspiracy distributed the heroin to other co-conspirators, who in turn sold the heroin for profit within the United States.
8. Members of the conspiracy played different roles, took upon themselves different tasks, and participated in the affairs of the conspiracy through various criminal acts. They made themselves and their services available to each other at various times, and participated in certain ventures on an "as needed" basis.
9. Members of the conspiracy used cellular telephones to communicate with each other to facilitate their unlawful drug activities. In doing so, they used various methods to avoid the detection of law enforcement, including communicating on pre-paid cellular telephones not associated with their real names, and changing telephones and/or telephone numbers they used.

(Superseding Indictment at 2-3.)

In preparation for trial, the Government has filed the instant motions in limine. First, the Government asks the Court to preclude any reference to Verges's infant child. (Mot. in Limine to Preclude Reference to Child at 2.) According to the Government, "it is irrelevant and unnecessary to the disposition of this case to permit such evidence or inference and that it would be highly prejudicial... because jurors are likely to sympathize with defendant Verges[.]" ( Id. )

In its second motion, the Government asks the Court to allow testimony from members of the conspiracy who do not have personal knowledge of Defendants' involvement. (Mot. in Limine to Allow Witnesses at 1.) The Government submits that these individuals will testify "to the existence, scope, manner, means, and mode of operation of the conspiracy, as well as the connection of the conspiracy to the Eastern District of ...


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