United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
EVIDENCE SEIZED FROM 8640 GRINNELL STREET, DETROIT, MICHIGAN
PURSUANT TO A SEARCH WARRANT
D. BORMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
January 19, 2016, a Federal Grand Jury indicted Defendants
Arthur Rathburn and his wife Elizabeth Rathburn. Defendant
Arthur Rathburn was charged in all 13 counts; Elizabeth
Rathburn was charged in only the first nine counts. The
charges were as follows:
Both Defendants: Counts 1-9: Wire fraud, aiding and
abetting; 18 U.S.C. §§1343 and 2
Defendant Arthur Rathburn: Count 10: Transportation
of Hazardous Material, 49 U.S.C. §46312;
Counts 11-13: False Statements, 18 U.S.C.
instant search warrant, signed by Magistrate Judge Mona K.
Majzoub on December 6, 2013, is for a building located at
8640 Grinnell Street, Detroit, MI 48213: a single story brick
and concrete warehouse. There is a 53-page affidavit in
support of the search warrant. The search at issue is limited
to the search of the Grinnell Street warehouse.
items to be seized include, inter alia, dead human
bodies and human body parts including organs, tissues, bones,
and parts thereof; records or documentation associated with
bodies or body parts, fingerprints, DNA tissue samples or
swabs, willed-body donor files; records associated with
funeral homes, crematories in reference to bodies, domestic
and international records of training attendance, shipping
records, federal and state government records, any and all
items related to, inter alia, International
Biological, Inc. (a company owned by Mr. Rathburn), Rathburn
Properties LLC, Rathburn Brothers LLC, Arthur Rathburn,
Elizabeth Rathburn, including photos or videos, travel
records, phone records, and barcode scanners. This includes
computer evidence and storage media, software, passwords,
August 3, 2016, Defendant Arthur Rathburn filed a Motion to
Suppress the evidence seized accompanied by a 35-page brief.
Co-Defendant Elizabeth Rathburn did not join in this Motion.
On September 16, 2016, the Government filed its response in
opposition to Defendant Arthur Rathburn's Motion to
Suppress. Pursuant to E.D. Mich. L. R. 7.1(f)(2), the Court
concludes that it is proper to rule without a hearing based
on the four corners of the search warrant and the affidavit.
recent Sixth Circuit opinion authored by Judge Jeffrey
Sutton, United States v. Raglin,
F.App'x ___, 2016 WL 5754008, (6th Cir. Oct.
4, 2016) (unpublished), discusses the legal issues facing
this Court in this Motion to Suppress:
Probable Cause. To justify a search, an officer must
demonstrate "why evidence of illegal activity will be
found in a particular place." United States v.
Carpenter, 360 F.3d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 2004) (en banc).
There must be a connection between the location of the search
and the subject of the search.
* * *
Particularity. The Fourth Amendment requires a
search warrant to "particularly describe the place to
be searched, and the... things to be seized." The chief
concern of the requirement is to prevent "[g]eneral
warrants, " which "create a danger of unlimited
discretion in the executing officer's determination of
what is subject to seizure." United States v.
Henson, 848 F.3d 1374, 1382 (6th Cir. 1988) (quotation
omitted). The chief answer to that concern is to
"require[e] a neutral judicial officer to cabin the
scope of the search to those areas and items for which there
exists probable cause that a crime has been committed."
Baranski v. Fifteen Unknown Agents of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, 452 F.3d 433, 441 (6th
Cir. 2006) (en banc).
The degree of specificity required in a search warrant varies
depending on (1) "what information is reasonably
available to the police, " United States v.
Ford, 184 F.3d 566, 575 (6th Cir. 1999), (2) "the
crime involved, " as well as (3) "the types of
items sought, " United States v. Richards, 659
F.3d 527, 537 (6th Cir. 2011).
2016 WL 5754008, at *2-3.
the Court recognizes that this search warrant lists many
items to be seized, this is neither unusual nor illegal given
the broad criminal investigation related to multiple
bodies/body parts, and multiple individual actors, entities,
and locations. The Court notes that the Grinnell Street
structure appears to be a hub of the illegal activity. The
items seized were clearly covered by the search warrant and
relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation.
regard to the length of the investigation, the Court concurs
with the United States description in it's Response of
the ongoing criminal activities: "This is not an
investigation involving ephemeral evidence [lasting briefly],
such as illegal drug transactions. It is an investigation of
the illegal dealings of an ostensibly legitimate business -
and as such there are no staleness concerns." (ECF No.
49, p.9) (alteration added). Further ¶62 on Page 29 of
the affidavit evidences Rathburn/IBI's attempt to send
body parts into Canada as recently as in October, 2013, that
were rejected by Canada as diseased.
case the affidavit established an adequate connection between
the Grinnell Street location, the nefarious criminal activity
described in the affidavit, and the Federal crimes specified
in the affidavit at Page 52, ¶117, Title 18 U.S.C.
§§371, 1343, 2314, and 1001.
as to the challenge of the warrant being open-ended, Judge
Sutton pointed out in Raglin: "Relatedly, other
circuits have held that specifying that a search is for
evidence of a particular crime can bring an otherwise
open-ended list of items into compliance with the
particularly requirement." 2016 WL 5754008, at *3. The
Court recognizes that there is a legitimate market involving
body donors, and commercial entities supplying cadavers and
body parts to inter alia, Researchers and
Universities. However, the instant search warrant affidavit
is specifying criminal activity: "a vast gray and black
market in dead human bodies and body parts [that] necessarily
has many moving parts and players. This market is run by an
organized group of international entrepreneurs buying,
selling, and transporting human body parts throughout the
United States and around the world." Affidavit ¶9,
affidavit asserts that the facts contained therein
"establish probable cause that evidence, fruits, and
instrumentalities of violations of conspiracy to commit wire
fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and
deception of the United States Government through false
statements (Title 18, United States Code, sections 371, 1343,
2314, 1001) will be found at 8640 Grinnell Street" The
affidavit defines "body-brokers" as "middlemen
between those who first receive corpses and the end-users who
are willing to pay handsomely for a steady supply. Although
the activity of "body brokers" who buy and sell
human cadavers, body parts and tissue - is not illegal,
per se, - body broker business conducted in
violation of Federal criminal statutes is the focus of this
Grinnell Street is a business address of International
Biological, Inc., a Rathburn-owned entity, "where human
body parts are processed and stored, and ... this property is
associated with International Biological, Inc. (LB.I.), and
[According to Wayne County Register of Deeds website] has
listed both Arthur Rathburn and Rathburn Properties, LLC as
grantees." Affidavit ¶4, p.3.
affidavit also references "Body Broker" business
entities located in other venues that have dealings with IBI:
Illinois - Anatomical Services, Inc., Cremations Services
Inc., and Biological Resource Center of Illinois, LLC,
(BRCIL): Arizona-Biological Resource Center of Arizona
(BRCAZ). Affidavit ¶¶ 5-7, p.4. Given the
complexity of the criminal conduct alleged, in terms of the
various entities involved and the many moving parts in this
nationwide investigation, the Court concludes that the search
warrant was not an illegal general warrant, nor did it
authorize an over broad unlimited search.
Government's Response to Defendant's Motion to
Suppress, contends, as is evident from reading the affidavit,
that the Grinnell Warehouse was a hub of the international
network of illegal buyer/seller activity relating to the
buying, selling and disposing of body parts contrary to the
will of donors.
affidavit was authored by an individual who became an FBI
Special Agent in 2003, who has a Ph.D in the biological
services, and prior to 2003 worked as a research scientist at
the Center for Behavior Neuroscience. Affidavit ¶ 1,
p.2. That background, while relevant to the credibility of
the affidavit's discussion of scientific matters with
regard to the business activity, doesn't give the
Government a free pass in the ...