In October of last year the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) pulled off the mother of all warrantless searches. The agency cut the cable service for suspects they wanted to surveil, showed up pretended to be the repair crew, and collected evidence while pretending to fix the lost service in order to get a warrant to search the property. Well a federal magistrate decided that that little stunt crossed the line and tossed the search warrant:
A federal magistrate is tossing a Las Vegas search warrant that led to the arrest of as many as eight people accused of running an illegal, online bookmaking operation last year from posh villas at Caesar’s Palace. The court found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s warrant application was “fatally flawed” and was “supplemented with material omissions.”
To obtain a search warrant, the authorities cut DSL access and posed as the cable guy, gathering evidence along the way that made up the basis for the bulk of a search warrant that resulted in the arrest of high-stakes gambler Paul Phua, his son Darren, and others.
Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen ruled that the failure to mention that the original case was born from the “ruse” meant the judge who signed a search warrant this summer didn’t have all of the facts. Nowhere in the search warrant request, however, did the authorities mention that they allegedly saw illegal wagering on computers after posing as technicians who in reality briefly disconnected the DSL.
It seems like the magistrate was more unhappy about the FBI lying to the original judge than she was about the stunt being a complete violation of due process. Fortunately for the FBI they can appeal this up the chain. Eventually it should find a court more sympathetic to its needs and rule the warrant as good.
Make no mistake, the fact that the FBI agents involved in this stunt weren’t arrested themselves demonstrates just how much of a police state we live in. When law enforcement can do things like this without consequence then there is no hope of curtailing their abuses of power.