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Build a Secret Compartment, Go To Jail 1111

Posted by timothy
from the postcard-vs.-envelope dept.
KindMind writes "Alfred Anaya was a custom stereo installer who branched out to making secret compartments for valuables, who the DEA sent to prison as a co-conspirator when a drug dealer used his creation to smuggle drugs. But Wired points out the bigger question: 'The challenge for anyone who creates technology is to guess when they should turn their back on paying customers. Take a manufacturer of robot kits for hobbyists. If someone uses those robots to patrol a smuggling route or help protect a meth lab, how will prosecutors determine whether the company acted criminally?'"
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Build a Secret Compartment, Go To Jail

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  • Gun Makers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:30AM (#43336381)
    To me, law enforcement would have a leg to stand on if they were also pushing hard for the right to arrest the management of gun and ammunition manufacturers - Those agents-of-death are way more culpable of abetting in the murder of children than some guy making secret compartments.
  • by rally2xs (1093023) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:30AM (#43336387)

    ... is to legalize absolutely all the drugs, and put the DEA, et. al., out of business. The insane drug war is just another excuse to violate citizen's rights, plus it provides obscene amounts of money to all the wrong sorts of people. And, reportedly, Mexico has lost 70,000 of its citizens since 2007 to drug war violence. Is the USA keeping drugs illegal really worth 70,000 human lives? I don't think so.

  • War on drugs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:32AM (#43336401)

    Who in the hell thought the 'War on Drugs' was rational? That's the problem right there. Drug use is not a black or white situation. Smoking pot is one thing. Meth addicts with children in the home is another. But like anything else controversial, once politics gets involved you can throw rationality right out the window! Being casualties of war is a given, you have to ask yourself if they're worth preserving a healthy community.

  • by sudden.zero (981475) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (orez.neddus)> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:33AM (#43336405)
    Under the same premise a car manufacturer should be liable for assisting in a bank robbery because the thieves couldn't have gotten away so quickly without their ingenious device called the automobile! This is just stupid and the judge that made that poor decision should be shot, hanged, and burnt at the stake!
  • co-conspirator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amoeba1911 (978485) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:34AM (#43336413) Homepage
    Does a gun manufacturer or dealer go to jail as co-conspirator when the killer used the gun to kill people?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:34AM (#43336415)

    He used to work legally, and pay the taxes.

    Now he will have problems finding a job, so he will build secret compartments for drug runners for living, not as a side job.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:35AM (#43336417)

    If you are a small Mom and Pop operations (Under 5 employees) you are going to jail.
    If you are a Small Business (Under 100 Employees) you will get massive fines.
    If you are a Medium Business (Under 1000 Employees) you will get a stern talking to
    If you are a Large Business (1000+ Employees) you are considered an innovator, any misuse of your product is not your fault.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:36AM (#43336425) Homepage

    I'm in favor of partial legalization and regulation. Smoking kills 300k a year. Something like widespread meth use could come in 10x, 20x that. The reason drugs can get banned is because they are so incredibly devastating to individuals to families and to communities when their use becomes common. Pretending they are harmless undermines other points.

    The question is whether the benefits of criminalization, the avoidance of widespread use, can be achieved without criminalization.

  • On the face of it his incarceration is ludicrous. If he specifically created the compartment for drug smuggling and took part of the profits . . . well then I can see some justification.
  • Wrong lesson... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:38AM (#43336445)
    I think the lesson of this case has little to do with secret compartments. What mainly happened here is the police wanted him to work for them and he said no, so the built a case to punish him. The trial was a joke, the testimony against him was due to plea deals and some of it was physically impossible to be true, and most of it hinged on building up personal dislike by the jury due to his lifestyle.

    He refused to put his life at risk when the police threatened him, and they made good on the threat, even if he was within the law. Being within the law does not matter when they want to get you.
  • by Krneki (1192201) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:39AM (#43336453)

    You don't combat drug (ab)use by prohibition, you use education.

    And anyway the side effect of prohibition will do far more harm to society then any drug can.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:42AM (#43336477)

    ...you'll see that not only did he have suspicions, but that those suspicions were validated when he had to repair the mechanism to open the secret compartment, only to find it loaded with cash. And not a little bit of cash; according to the article, the reason the compartment jammed was that it was over-filled with $800,000 in cash. Anaya's reaction, from the article:

    Anaya stumbled back from the truck’s cab, livid. “Get it out of here,” he growled at Esteban. “I don’t want to know about this. I don’t want any problems.”

    If you participate in something you know to be illegal, that's conspiracy. He's not charged because he built a compartment; any activity that he would have participated in which would contribute...knowingly...to an illegal enterprise would fit the bill here. He's charged because he knew something wrong was going on, it involved him, and he said nothing to the police. If the criminals had somehow needed a hot fudge sundae to commit a criminal act, and he'd provided the ice cream knowing what would happen, the name of this article would be "Make a sundae, go to jail." I don't see the problem here. Furthermore, Anaya had serious concerns about his customer before he even did the work in the first place..."Anaya was unsettled by this request, for he had suspicions about the nature of Esteban’s work."

    But guess what? None of that is the REAL thing he's caught for. After all of that...what happens? Esteban...the guy with almost a million dollars in cash hidden in his truck...is asked by Esteban to install a similar compartment in ANOTHER truck. I mean, come on...

    A grateful Maldanado then asked Anaya if he could install a trap in the Ridgeline too. The Honda truck already had one, but it was the work of a rank amateur—just a crude hole sawed into the base of the trunk. Maldanado wanted an electronic trap like the F-150’s, and he offered to leave a cash deposit so Anaya could buy the necessary hydraulics.

    Anaya, who was deeply in debt to numerous creditors, decided to accept the job. He hadn’t totally forgiven Maldanado for failing to warn him about the money jammed in the trap, but he figured that he was still adhering to the letter of the law. The fact was that he hadn’t seen any drugs, and there had been no discussion of how Maldanado had earned his small fortune.

    Yeah, maybe Esteban just had a really lucrative paper route...

    Given those circumstances, Anaya assumed that he was immune from legal trouble in connection with his meticulous creations. He was, after all, just an installer.

    Right. They want your services so bad because it's not all that important to them. You're not helping with the narcotics trade...nooooo...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:43AM (#43336489)

    If you are a Very Large Business (10000+ Employees) you wil be consulted on the draft bill to modify the offending law..

  • His mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:44AM (#43336495)
    His mistake was in installing the second "trap" in the other vehicle. He could have legitimately claimed that he agreed to fix the first one out of a sense of responsibility for his workmanship AND fear that the guy would come after him for failing to do so. However, agreeing to the second one made it a clear money grab and it violated the California law. He knew the only way that the guy got that much money was through the drug trade. He should have told the guy that he had compromised his business by showing up with all that money in the "trap" and exposed him to legal liability beyond what he had agreed to.
    I understand why he thought he was skirting the law, but he knew he was skirting the law. Once it went beyond merely knowing in an academic fashion that some of his customers were using his installations in an illegal fashion to having seen evidence (even though that evidence was not by itself enough to convict the customer) that a particular customer was doing so he had crossed the line. He crossed the line of plausible deniability.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:48AM (#43336539)

    Actually traps are pretty common for the rich or those who have to go to bad neighborhoods or even countries.

    People keep normal valuables like their wallet, GPS, tablets or laptops in them. The idea is that anything out of sight is out of mind for a crackhead/methuser/dirty cop.

    The guy targeted any buyers. The only reason he is going to jail is that he refused to be a snitch so they built a case to punish him for that.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:48AM (#43336543)
    Yes, but you forgot:

    You are a large bank, the failure of which would cripple the economy. You get a bailout and bonuses for your C level.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:52AM (#43336585) Homepage

    You don't combat drug (ab)use by prohibition, you use education.

    And actually trying to fix some of the social problems associated with drugs like poverty and lack of jobs.

    But nobody has any interest in doing that. They'd rather have a large, for profit prison industry and sweep it all under the rug.

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:55AM (#43336633) Homepage

    only to find it loaded with cash. And not a little bit of cash; according to the article, the reason the compartment jammed was that it was over-filled with $800,000 in cash

    If it's illegal to hold cash, then we all become Cypriots.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:01AM (#43336681)

    Actually, he'll be spending an awful lot of time in prison doing nothing.
    He used to work legally, and pay taxes.
    Now we'll be paying for him to rot in a concrete box.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:06AM (#43336703) Homepage

    Since when is money an illegal good?

    Having $800K in cash you can't account for is going to get you into the territory of seizure laws, unless you can account for where you got it (and the onus is on you to prove that).

    And, sadly, once he saw it, and reasonably knew what the second one was likely to be used for .. he was screwed. Because either he said nothing and became complicit, or he turned in some shady people who might not be understanding of that.

    If he'd never seen what was inside, and never agreed to make another one, he'd probably have been shielded with "your honor, I have no idea what he kept in there".

    But once he asked if there was anything he needed to worry about, and saw that much cash, and then made another one for them ... well, I feel bad for the guy.

    If I put it in my safe am I suddenly some sort of drug lord?

    Depending on how much cash, if you were found with it you might need to prove it's legally obtained. Trying to deposit $10K or more (or whatever it is) into the bank in cash is going to get flagged as well.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BeansBaxter (918704) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:06AM (#43336713)
    Reading the article the real crime was refusing to be a DEA pawn.
  • No-win situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dr_dank (472072) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:12AM (#43336745) Homepage Journal

    Once this guy knew who he was doing business with, it gave him two crappy options:

    1) Turn informant for the government. His customers would know in a moment that he flipped once they see that he's moved out of his house and suddenly has the money to open a fancy storefront with all the bells and whistles (bugged to the gills). Once they figure that out, he and his family are as good as dead.

    2) Take your chances in court. Since the federal government moved the venue to Kansas, that'll practically secure a conviction for an LA Latino who can easily be painted as a gangster living large while working on spec for the drug lords. Also, this sets an example for those who refuse uncle sams generous offer to turn informant.

  • Credibility (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxrubyNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:13AM (#43336757)

    I read this article before it was posted on Slashdot, so I have had a chance to think about it. My biggest problem with this case is the guy's credibility. When it came time to make the money (lots of money) installing the traps he was content to play dumb. When it came time to cooperate with the Fed's after reality caught up to the guy all of a sudden he was in so much fear for his life about these guys that cooperating the Feds (they offered a sweetheart deal) was inconceivable to him.

    Let's put it this way, it would be a little bit like one of the guys in Columbia that makes private submarines in the middle of jungle claiming that he thought they were for recreational purposes. This guy knew damn well what his traps were being used for and went right on making them and profiting off of them anyways. Point being that the guy knowingly facilitated the drug trade for profit, how is he any different from a dealer or a crooked border agent?

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:18AM (#43336803)

    One of the grievances in the Declaration of Independence was that the British government was "transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences". The Founders believed that any alleged crimes should be prosecuted in the jurisdiction where they occurred and that defendants should be tried by a jury of their peers. This was codified in the Sixth Amendment: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed..."

    It seems clear that this section of the Constitution was violated here. Anaya was prosecuted in Kansas, a state where he had apparently never set foot, on the grounds that some of his customers had smuggled drugs there using his secret compartments. But this meant that he would not be tried by a jury of his peers – Californians who are racially diverse, familiar with high tech, and understand that rubbing elbows with the occasional shady person doesn't mean you are necessarily a criminal yourself. Instead he would be tried by a jury in Kansas, a state which is almost all-white and which is full of (let's be honest) fascists.

    This is far from the only outrage in this case – it never should have been prosecuted in the first place, and the 24-year sentence is utterly absurd for any offense that doesn't involve death or serious bodily harm – but it's one that hasn't been mentioned so far, and may have been key to Anaya's conviction.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:19AM (#43336815)

    Why is it his problem to find out where the $800k came from? Sounds like work for police and IRS agents, not a car audio installer.

    This entire case is based on his refusal to become a rat.

  • by parlancex (1322105) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:25AM (#43336903)
    That makes no sense to me. Large amounts of cash seem like a pretty legitimate use for a secret compartment in a car, in many neighborhoods throughout the US. The only way an ordinary citizen could have a large amount of cash is obviously through illegal means? I guess we really were never supposed to win.
  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:30AM (#43336959)

    The Silk Road has been rather successful, and to this date, nobody has been kidnapped and beheaded, hanged, or robbed during any drug transactions. Plus, it seems that the quality of the substances made is much higher than those found on the street, and less likely to kill you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:36AM (#43337029)

    Reasonable people store $800,000 in cash in a bank, not in a hidden compartment in a truck

    Unless they live in Cyprus now.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:38AM (#43337053)

    Indeed. I own several dozen guns - almost all of which I shoot regularly and none of which have ever killed someone.

    As a matter of fact, if a gun is "meant" for killing people, considering that there are approximately 200 million guns in the US and 11,000 gun deaths per year in the US, then even if you consider every single one of those deaths to have been caused by a different firearm (which isn't true, but that's a "worse case scenario"), then every year 99.9945% of those guns are used for something other than what they're "meant" for since they didn't kill anyone.

  • Re:co-conspirator (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:42AM (#43337077)
    It's worth noting here the Fast and Furious [wikipedia.org] "gun walking" scandal. ATF personnel knew in the summer of 2010 that the straw weapon purchases (ultimately for about two thousand apparently high quality weapons) which they were allowing but deliberately not monitoring (allegedly as part of a plan to catch gun smugglers and their buyers) were going straight to Sinaloa cartel factions and being used to commit many hundreds of crimes such as murder. But they let that program continue another half a year until a border agent was killed in a shoot out involving two such weapons.

    It's worth noting here that most of those straw purchases wouldn't have happened without ATF interference and we don't know what else might have been smuggled into Mexico in connection with those guns.

    No one from the ATF has been prosecuted for assisting in these crimes. After all, they knew without a doubt in the summer of 2010 that crimes were being committed with those weapons, yet they did nothing for another half a year until someone too important to ignore died. In comparison, Alfred Anaya of the story is merely suspected to have known that his secret compartments were used for drug smuggling.

    And none of Anaya's devices ever killed anyone while as of more than two years ago, F&F weapons turned up at over 200 murder scenes in both Mexico and the US.

    And because the Obama administration is shielding the people involved, we don't know if the real purpose of the effort was to catch gun smugglers and complicit members of the Sinaloa Cartel or something sinister such as creating a false pretext for federal gun control laws or deliberately providing smuggling services for the Sinaloa Cartel.
  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:50AM (#43337181)

    And if you are a Pillar of the Economy business (100000+ headcount) you will get to write the law yourself and select who will serve in Congress to implement your law.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:59AM (#43337309) Homepage
    Right. Because the big reason I smoke cigarettes and don't smoke meth is because meth is illegal. take another hit off your crack pipe.
  • Re:co-conspirator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:00AM (#43337325) Homepage

    "Does a gun manufacturer or dealer go to jail as co-conspirator when the killer used the gun to kill people?"

    If he knew that the purchaser was most likely planning on shooting up a school yard, then yes. Yes he does.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:01AM (#43337345)

    That he freaked out and said told them to remove the money and “I don’t want to know about this. I don’t want any problems.” Seems like a good indication that he did in fact think it was likely the result of some sort of criminal activity. That he then took another job from them to build a hidden compartment in another vehicle puts him pretty clearly in the breaking the law category (you can argue the law is stupid, but it is what it is).

    Of course this guy gets 24 years in prison for indirectly helping out drug traffickers move millions of dollars around. HSBC helps drug traffickers move billions of dollars around and all the people involved get a total of 0 days in prison.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:03AM (#43337377)

    I have a number of pistols and rifles, but I do not hunt. For the most part, they sit in a safe until I go to the range and burn through some old ammunition. Then, they get cleaned and put back away. None of them have ever been used to kill another person. In fact, my suspicion is that a vast majority of guns in the US have never been used to kill a person. I submit that this rather succinctly disproves your assertion regarding what said guns "are for".

    Your preconceptions are you problem -- please do not pretend that they apply to the rest of us.

  • by Weezul (52464) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:45AM (#43337927)

    There is broadly applicable principle that laws should not usually yield counter intuitive results. If they do, the odds favor the law itself being unjust. In this case, we're punishing a harmless-but-stupid mechanic for making otherwise legal car customizations only because our perverse drug laws created an unreasonable situation. Also, the DEA and DOJ got pissed that he feared the drug dealers more than them.

    There is ample evidence [spiegel.de] that drug prohibition causes crime and prevents treatment, making all the DEA agents, DOJ prosicutors, and prison contractors who lobby for unjust intimidating laws wholly responsible for the drug related deaths, addiction cases, etc. All the ridiculous scenarios like asset forfeiture cases or locking up mechanics who make otherwise legal mods flow entirely from the underlying corruption in our prison-industrial-complex.

    There is one small measure I'd suggest that might reduce the problem somewhat : Do not permit federal prosecutors to become federal judges or win primaries for elected office. Any time we hear about a proposed judicial appointment or a new candidate in some race, just google them and find their past jobs. If they were a federal prosecutor, then google more to find if they ever brought charges under the CFAA, DMCA, etc. or if any drug cases stand out as unjust. If so, then make a stink online to help derail their career advancement. If federal prosecutors cannot usually become federal judges or representatives then they'll lose considerable lobbying power over time.

  • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:49AM (#43337975) Homepage

    It's not illegal to manufacture or sell something that is eventually used in a crime.

    It *IS* illegal to provide material support for a criminal act. That makes you one of the criminals.

    So, if I make guns that are sold at retail and a criminal comes and buys them at a store and then uses them in a crime, not my fault. But if I sell a few crates of guns to a visitting African warlord for cash, well....

    If I have a business installing hidden compartments in cars, no problem. If I find out one of my customers is using the compartments to smuggle materials and I continue to serve that customer, I'm no longer just installing hidden compartments, I'm PARTICIPATING IN THE SMUGGLING.

    The guy wasn't jailed for making the compartments. He was jailed for being part of the smuggling scheme.

  • by Calydor (739835) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:58AM (#43338115)

    If I was repairing something and found a huge stash of money within, my first thought would not be that my client was a drug dealer.

    My first thought would be something along the lines of, "Holy crap. That is a lot of money. If some is ever missing he'll think I was the one who took it. I don't want any trouble, so I'll tell him to take his money, make sure it's all there, and keep it out of my reach."

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:19PM (#43338369) Homepage Journal

    Don't forget all the legalised theft that is happening in USA on daily basis, with cases not even making it to any court.

    Property is being seized by cops every day in America, this includes cash, cars and even buildings, apartments and hotels because 'authorities' (authorised racket that everybody assumes is the government) say that it had something to do with drugs. Even if you prove (good luck) that it had nothing to do with drugs, you are probably not going to see your property back.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:34PM (#43338619) Homepage Journal

    Guns are designed for many purposes - grease guns, paint guns, pellet guns, air guns, et. al.

    Firearms are designed for one purpose: to accelerate a small hunk of metal and/or plastic in a linear direction of the operator's choosing, at a very high rate of speed. PERIOD - that's what they are designed to do.

    What the operator chooses to point said firearm at is NOT an aspect of the tool itself, but rather a consequence of the operator's decision.

  • by NEW22 (137070) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:38PM (#43338687)

    Prison rape is awful.

    Your comment sucks, but not even primarily because of the reason I just gave. It is thoughtless regurgitation, lacking in any wit. It's comedic brilliance falls somewhere between telling a woman to make you a sandwich and using a story mentioning Uranus to talk about "your anus".

    Try harder.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richy_T (111409) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:16PM (#43339269) Homepage

    Blue-Collar Man: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.
    Dante: Whose house was it?
    Blue-Collar Man: Dominick Bambino's.
    Randal: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?
    Blue-Collar Man: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.
    Dante: Based on personal politics.
    Blue-Collar Man: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.
    Randal: No way!
    Blue-Collar Man: (paying for coffee) I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. (pauses to reflect) You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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