Cell Phone Searches at Airport Customs Are Legal, Says Assistant US Attorney


The case involves two Guam residents who, according to authorities, were busted with 8.4 pounds of methamphetamine while in California.

Guam – The US Attorney’s Office believes the search and seizure of the cell phones of two individuals who are now facing conspiracy and drug allegations was proper and just given the suspicions that were stacked up against them.

The case involves Raymond John Martinez and Juanita-Marie Quitugua Moser, who authorities say were busted with 8.4 pounds of methamphetamine in California in June of this year.

But the investigation started in July of last year, which is when the pair’s cell phones were searched while they were going through Airport Customs after returning from Los Angeles.

Their attorneys want that evidence suppressed because they believe it was an illegal search given the fact that Martinez and Moser flew in from another US jurisdiction. But the Assistant US Attorney Clyde Lemons disagrees, saying the pair had a layover in Japan, which, obviously, is not a US jurisdiction.

Lemons further argues that the Ninth Circuit Court has previously ruled that Guam and the US mainland have their own separate and exclusive customs zone. He cites case law in which the Ninth Circuit Court states that while Guam is a part of the US geopolitically, “an item passing from the United States into Guam leaves one customs territory and its administration, and enters another.”

“Therefore,” write Lemons, “it makes sense that for purposes of Guam customs law, any item arriving in Guam, from outside Guam—even if coming from the United States—is subject to customs inspection.”

Part of the reason for the search in the first place, says Lemons, is that customs agents were on to Martinez during his outbound flight on July 9, 2014 from Guam after they noticed something suspicious in Martinez’ luggage. Martinez, court documents say, claimed he was carrying $50,000 in cash but when he landed in Los Angeles, he declared having $100,000 in cash in his luggage.

The reason for the cash? Authorities say Martinez claimed it was proceeds from the sale of a 2006 Hummer. When agents looked up the Blue Book value of the SUV, they found it was only worth $60,000.

Further, customs agents say the man Martinez sold it to was a known drug trafficker who used luxury cars to illegally transport drugs.

In fact, when Martinez returned to Guam about two weeks later, customs agents discovered Martinez had arranged to have two motorcycles and a Mercedes G55 shipped to Guam from the mainland.

Lemons argues that although the pair’s original departure was from LA, they actually flew in through an international flight from Narita, Japan, and thus the search of their cell phones, he further states, was a proper border search.

Lemons asks that Guam federal court deny a motion filed by the pair’s attorney to suppress evidence obtained from their cell phones.

You can read the opposition filed in District Court by clicking on file below.