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United States v. Cariani

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 10, 2019




         Defendant Peter James Cariani has filed a motion to suppress the fruits of four search warrants executed on his email addresses, the email addresses of his girlfriend and brother, and his home residence. (ECF No. 30). Approximately a month after Cariani filed his motion, he filed an additional motion, this time seeking to suppress statements he made during an FBI interview and evidence recovered stemming from that interview. (ECF No. 36). The government filed a consolidated response to Cariani's motions. (ECF No. 40). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Cariani's motions to suppress.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts and allegations are gathered from the various pleadings and exhibits on the docket. Cariani is an engineer by trade who worked for Sierra Nevada Corporation ("SNC"), a defense contractor headquartered in Sparks, Nevada, from 2012 to April 2015. Among other products, SNC designs and develops a specialized aircraft radar system known as REVS. REVS provides pilots with digital images of the ground, which allows them to safely land aircraft in low visibility situations. While REVS was originally designed for use on military helicopters during the War on Terror in Afghanistan, SNC saw a potential market for selling REVS for use on commercial fixed-wing aircraft. SNC believed that REVS would be useful for large cargo planes and corporate jets attempting to land in bad weather conditions at smaller airports lacking the sophisticated landing technology of their larger counterparts. SNC has devoted substantial resources into developing a commercial REVS product and considers it to be a trade secret and proprietary information not known to the general public.

         Cariani was hired by SNC in 2012 as a Principal Systems Engineer to work in the fixed-wing division of its commercial REVS program. During his employment at SNC, Cariani held a "Secret" level security clearance. Cariani eventually submitted his resignation letter to SNC on April 7, 2015, which contained several complaints about SNC and its leadership. Cariani alleges that he resigned following disputes with SNC management about the direction of his REVS division, but the government alleges that Cariani's dissatisfaction with SNC stems from him being disciplined for unprofessional behavior. Following Cariani's resignation, on April 16, SNC corporate security discovered that approximately 12, 000 REVS-related files had been copied from Cariani's SNC-issued laptop to two USB flash drives not approved by SNC. A little over a week later on April 24, Cariani participated in a telephonic exit interview with SNC after refusing an in-person interview. When asked by SNC personnel whether he had transferred any files from his SNC laptop to unapproved external storage devices, Cariani stated that he could not recall if he had done so prior to SNC prohibiting the practice. Further questioning from SNC personnel about the file transfers prompted Cariani to abruptly hang up the phone.

         A. First Motion to Suppress - Search Warrants

         The government subsequently initiated a criminal investigation into Cariani to determine if he had stolen any of SNC s trade secrets related to the REVS program. Investigation revealed that in March 2015, Cariani and his girlfriend, Alisa Bindel, had booked a flight to Italy scheduled to depart in late May 2015. While Bindel had traveled to Europe several times before, Cariani had not. Cariani used an email account from Apple ( to book the flight. On May 26, 2015, FBI Special Agent Sean Jolley applied for a search warrant from this Court to search Cariani's "carianip" email account for various terms related to Cariani and the REVS program, such as "REVS," "source code," "internal research and development," and the names of both Cariani and Bindel. Agent Jolley also included general information about email accounts in the affidavit attached to his search warrant application, noting that email was often used by foreign governments and businesses to obtain trade secret information. U.S. Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb reviewed Agent Jolley's search warrant, affidavit, and the attached exhibits and granted the warrant.

         The search warrant resulted in the discovery of three additional Apple email accounts belonging to Cariani. Agent Jolley applied for and was granted a second search warrant for these three email accounts. The second search warrant, inter alia, revealed a document indicating that Cariani had business plans to sell technology similar to REVS to SNC's customers, which included similar pricing and cost specifications. Subsequent search warrants were granted for email addresses belonging to Keith Cariani (Cariani's brother) and Bindel and for a search of Cariani's home.

         B. Second Motion to Suppress - FBI Interview

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on July 29, 2019, regarding Cariani's motion to suppress evidence obtained in an interview he had with the FBI on October 21, 2015, at the Boston Logan International Airport. During the hearing, the Court heard testimony from three individuals: FBI agents Timothy Darling and Emilie Stallings and Cariani himself. Agent Darling, the airport liaison agent coordinator for the FBI at Logan International, testified that he was tasked with meeting Cariani at his airline arrival gate to try to set up a meeting between Cariani and two other FBI agents. Although Agent Darling testified that he did not have any specific memory of his encounter with Cariani, he stated that when he meets with someone whom the FBI wants to interview, he asks the interviewee if he has any time to meet with a "couple of colleagues." If someone refuses to meet with them, Agent Darling allows the individual to leave and asks if they would be willing to schedule a meeting or a phone call at a different time. He does not place his hands on any interviewees, nor does he ever raise his voice. Agent Darling testified that if the interviewee accepts the interview offer, he escorts them through the public terminal and to the FBI office, which is located in a section of the airport only accessible to airport employees and government personnel. Agent Darling stated that he never puts his hands on someone he accompanies to the FBI office, nor does he ever restrict their movement on the way there. If something unusual happened in the course of Agent Darling's meeting with Cariani, such as Cariani becoming upset or acting belligerently, he would have remembered it. As far as Agent Darling remembered, Cariani accepted the interview offer and accompanied him to the FBI office without incident.

         Agent Stallings testified about her interview with Cariani on October 21, 2015, and her subsequent interaction with him the following day. She testified that she and Agent Joshua Cook, who were both based out of Boston at that time, interviewed Cariani on behalf of Agent Jolley. The interview took place in a conference room in the FBI office at Logan International, which Agent Stallings described as well-lighted. Agents Stallings and Cook sat across a conference table from Cariani and conducted what would turn out to be approximately an hour and a half interview. Cariani was seated between the agents and the door leading out of the conference room. Agent Stallings testified that she and Agent Cook did have firearms on them, but they were concealed by their clothing. Agent Stallings was wearing business attire, while Agent Cook was wearing business casual.

         Agent Stallings testified that Cariani appeared alert and answered their questions with clear speech and without impairment during the interview. At no time did the agents tell Cariani that he was under arrest or that he was not free to leave. Agent Stallings testified that Cariani asked her and Agent Cook why he was being investigated several times, but they did not give him a specific answer. At no time did Cariani request to leave or otherwise express a desire to terminate the interview. The agents eventually asked for Cariani's consent to search any electronic devices he had on hand, and Cariani initially agreed to allow his laptop, iPad, and two USB flash drives to be searched. But when it came time to sign the consent forms, Cariani changed his mind and only gave the agents permission to search his two USB drives. Following the signing of the consent forms, the agents offered to drive Cariani to bus stop in Braintree (a suburb of Boston) where his parents were waiting to pick him up. Cariani accepted the offer, and the agents drove him to the Braintree bus stop without any conversation or incident.

         The following day (October 22, 2015), Agent Stallings received word from Agent Cook that Cariani had changed his mind again and wished to give the FBI consent to search his iPad and laptop. Agent Stallings traveled to one of Cariani's rental properties in Framingham along with another agent. Once there, Cariani showed the agents some files on his computer, and in Agent Stallings's words, "rambled" about stealing "something from SNC." Cariani then signed written consent forms to search his laptop and iPad. The entire meeting at Cariani's rental property lasted about 30 minutes.

         Cariani's testimony varied greatly from the testimony given by Agents Stallings and Darling. He testified that immediately after he disembarked from his flight, "two men approached him from behind" and showed him their badges identifying themselves as law enforcement. Because he believed that he had no choice but to go with them, Cariani allowed himself to be escorted by the law enforcement officers, with one officer in front of him and one officer behind him. Cariani testified that he was escorted to the conference room in a manner similar to how he believed prisoners of war are escorted by the Marines, but on cross, he conceded that while in the Marines, he had never actually escorted a prisoner of war. When he arrived in the conference room and was greeted by Agents Stallings and Cook, Cariani testified that he believed that he did not have a choice but to answer the questions the agents wanted to ask him, and he also did not feel that he could terminate the encounter. He never asked the agents if he had the option of doing either, however. Although Cariani did not see any firearms, he assumed that Agents Stallings and Cook were armed. Cariani testified that throughout the interview, he repeatedly stated how concerned he was about making his "elderly" parents wait for him at the Braintree bus stop at night, but in response, the agents only told him that the questioning would be "over quickly." Cariani stated that prior to starting the interview, he called his parents and told them what was happening.

         After the agents drove him to the Braintree bus stop, Cariani testified that he called his brother, and following this conversation, became "convinced" that the FBI had been tapping their phones. He also called his girlfriend, Bindel, and learned that she had been interviewed by the FBI as well. Cariani stated that he was dealing with "the mob," who he believed was trying to ruin his life by destroying his relationships with his family and friends and interfere with his job prospects. He testified that the FBI was a "United States government agency that has how [sic] much power they want, and they're after me, and they can do whatever damage to my life they want to." The same night as his interview with Agents Stallings and Cook, Cariani left Agent Jolley three voicemails, wherein he stated his intent to allow the FBI to search his laptop and iPad.

         Cariani was eventually indicted by a grand jury on July 26, 2017, with one count of theft of stolen trade secrets and one count of transmission of trade secrets, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1832(a)(2). Cariani filed two motions to suppress, one on April 19, 2019 (ECF No. 30) and one on May 18 (ECF No. 36). The first motion to suppress seeks to suppress the fruits of the first search warrant targeting Cariani's "carianip" Apple email. The second motion to suppress seeks to suppress statements ...

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