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United States v. Maitre

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 7, 2018

NAOMIE MAITRE, a.k.a. Black Nate, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 1:16-cr-20418-UU-3

          Before WILLIAM PRYOR and MARTIN, Circuit Judges, and HALL, [*] District Judge.

          MARTIN, Circuit Judge.

         Naomie Maitre appeals her conviction and sentence after a jury found her guilty of charges related to access device fraud and identity theft. After careful consideration, and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm the District Court in all respects.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A superseding indictment charged Ms. Maitre, Willie Smith, Daryl Pugh, and two others with conspiracy to possess 15 or more unauthorized access devices, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(3) and (b)(2) (Count 1). Ms. Maitre was also charged with possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices on November 12, 2014, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(3) (Count 2); possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices on January 7, 2015, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(3) (Count 4); and two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) (Counts 8, 9). Ms. Maitre denied these charges and went to trial.

         At trial the government introduced evidence that in September 2014 Miami police began investigating a string of early-morning burglaries of parked cars. Police got a tip that the burglars lived at 11804 Northwest 1st Avenue, so officers began watching the house. On November 12 the police saw a dark gray Infiniti parked outside the house. The Infiniti's appearance and license plate matched that of a car seen fleeing the scene of a vehicle burglary the day before. Later that day the police tried to conduct a traffic stop of a different car that briefly visited the house. The driver fled, then crashed the car. When the officers got to the scene, the driver was gone. In the car they found identification documents ("IDs")[1] and credit cards spilled on the floor, as well as a magazine loaded with ammunition for a handgun.

         The officers decided to go back to the 11804 Northwest 1st Avenue house and talk to the residents. Nearly four hours after officers first knocked on the door, they got a phone call passing along a message from Ms. Maitre that the residents were "willing to surrender if they were going to be okay." Ms. Maitre then came outside, along with Mr. Smith and two others. The officers told Ms. Maitre about their investigation and asked why she took so long to answer the door. She said she had been asleep and had not known the officers were there. She confirmed she lived at the house and consented to a search.

         Inside the master bedroom shared by Ms. Maitre and her boyfriend Mr. Smith, the police found three purses containing smaller handbags or wallets. One of these also had a "bundle" of IDs and credit cards inside.[2] The smaller wallets had more IDs inside them. In the attic crawl space was a backpack holding many ID bundles. In the living room, officers found a first-aid medical pack containing a military ID inside a drawer in the TV stand. Ms. Maitre said she didn't know where the pack came from, but she put it in the TV stand's drawer because she didn't have another place to put it. In all, the officers seized IDs and credit cards belonging to over 350 different people that day.

         Police also found 59 to 69 purses; a backpack containing 28 pairs of sunglasses and prescription glasses; a bag holding 18 cellphones; and a shoebox with 10 car keys. Ms. Maitre said she collected purses and Mr. Smith would buy them from flea markets or garage sales for her. She said sometimes they still held the previous owners' belongings, including IDs, but she didn't seem to think this was out of the ordinary.

         The police didn't arrest Ms. Maitre that day, although they confiscated the IDs and most of the personal items they found. The officers explained that the search showed the burglars' conduct went beyond just car burglaries and involved identity theft, which needed more investigation. They continued watching Ms. Maitre and the house. A few times officers tried to follow Ms. Maitre when she left the house, but she engaged in "heat runs, "[3] making it difficult for the officers to follow her without risking their safety or revealing their presence.

         Then, on January 7, 2015, Lisa Cheuvront, Natalie Persaud, Natasha Solivan, and Linda Joseph reported their cars had been burglarized, all early in the morning. A witness to one of these burglaries saw a black Chrysler 200 and got its license plate number, CAV-T48. Detective Adam Shahan had seen a similar car outside Ms. Maitre's house and drove there immediately, arriving at about 8 AM. The black Chrysler pulled up a few minutes later. Mr. Smith was driving and Mr. Pugh was in the passenger seat. Detective Shahan saw Mr. Smith open the trunk and hand a black satchel or bag to Mr. Pugh, who took it inside the house. Mr. Smith stayed outside and changed the license plate on the car.

         Later that day, Ms. Maitre drove the Chrysler twice. The second time, she had Mr. Smith, Mr. Pugh, and another person as her passengers, and Detective Shahan followed her. He saw her driving "very erratically"- speeding, making a sudden U-turn-and eventually pull into a Dollar Store parking lot, next to the store's dumpster. Mr. Pugh got out and tossed a bag into the dumpster. Police conducted a stop, arrested everyone, and searched the car. Officers found "center punches," which are tools used to break car windows, and Ms. Persaud's phone in plain view. In the store's dumpster, they found Ms. Persaud's purse and the CAV-T48 license plate.

         The police then got a search warrant for Ms. Maitre's house. During this January 7, 2015 search, they found Ms. Cheuvront's and Ms. Solivan's purses on the living room couch; stacks of credit cards and bank deposit slips in the living room bookshelf; cards and receipts in the dining area; and an ATM card in the bathroom cabinet. In Ms. Maitre and Mr. Smith's bedroom, officers found a garbage bag holding several purses; a dresser drawer containing money, credit cards, and gift cards; a purse filled with prepaid debit cards; another purse full of chargers and cell phone accessories; and a suitcase full of chargers, cell phones, and tablets. Inside a "shoe-shaped chair" in the bedroom, they found a black bag and a stolen, loaded gun. Ammunition in Ms. Maitre's underwear drawer matched the gun. The black bag from the chair had several bundles of IDs, among them Ms. Cheuvront's driver's license and Ms. Persaud's credit card. The police also found Ms. Joseph's iPad in a trash can outside the house.

         During her trial, Ms. Maitre called two witnesses in her defense. Sayire Crosdale testified that she and Ms. Maitre had been friends for about 25 years and that she left her purse at Ms. Maitre's house many times. The second witness was Mr. Smith, who pled guilty to some of the charges against him. He testified that he "took full responsibility" for the crimes and Ms. Maitre had no part in them. He said he hid his illegal activity from her, including putting the stolen property in places where she wouldn't look. He gave purses or pocketbooks to Ms. Maitre as gifts, but didn't tell her where they came from. He claimed the gun and ammunition, and said it was originally in his underwear drawer, not hers. On cross-examination, he confirmed that many of the items were in plain view or in locations to which Ms. Maitre had access. He also said he didn't have a job, he just helped an uncle at his car wash sometimes or helped a different uncle in a wheelchair. He said Ms. Maitre ...

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