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Crime The Courts Security Transportation Technology

Build a Secret Compartment, Go To Jail 1111

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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  • by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:40AM (#43336461) Homepage
    Look up drug legalization and Portugal.
  • 24 Years, No Parole (Score:5, Informative)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:42AM (#43336481) Homepage

    "The judge agreed with McCracken’s harsh assessment. He sentenced Anaya to 292 months in federal prison—more than 24 years—with no possibility of parole. Curtis Crow and Cesar Bonilla Montiel, the men at the top of the organization, received sentences half that length."

    Just to be clear -- the article doesn't reveal the 24-year sentence until almost the very end. Part of the problem is, as usual (see Aaron Swartz) unchecked prosecutors piling on crazy charges to force a plea bargain, and one person who truly believes they didn't do anything wrong, and refuses to take it for principle's sake. End result: epic miscarriage of justice.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:44AM (#43336503) Homepage
    The case hinged on whether Alfred Anaya knew that the compartments were being used to smuggle drugs. In this context, when he was repairing one of the compartments in question he saw that it was full of bundles of cash. The prosecutors argued (and the jury agreed) that this was clear evidence that something illegal was going on, most likely drugs. He could have said no at that point, but he didn't. I'm generally in favor of legalization for most drugs, but this fellow isn't as sympathetic and innocent as the summary makes him out to be.
  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:51AM (#43336573)

    False equivalency. *Total* false equivalency.

    There is a big difference between prosecuting a make of a Claw Hammer because it was used in a murder and prosecuting a make of a gun. A gun is for killing or maiming people and is not built for killing people. A claw hammer is built for driving nails and not built for killing people.

    I don't think gun makers should be prosecuted either as I think the important thing is the killer's intent.

    This case is even worse than the gun case, though. If a safe is bought and used to hide someone's stash does that make the safe maker liable? I would say hell no. I would say the case of secret compartments is more dubious, but there are tons of things it could be used legally for and I don't think the manufacturer of that hiding place has anything to do with the issue.

    Yes in some instances gun makers and safe makers could be liable. If, in the gun instance, it can be proven the sold or otherwise provided a gun knowing or any person can "reasonably" assume that the gun would be used to commit a crime. This case isn't about he made secret compartments so he went to jail, it is about the government saying he knew (or again, he reasonably should have known) that his compartments were being used for transoporting illegal goods. The crux of this case is that he helped a guy open a jammed compartment, which he realized was full of money. This means he should have reasonably known that his compartmemts were being used for house and smuggle illegal goods. Hence, the arrest and conviction.

    Read the article, get to know your country/state/municipalities laws.

  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:02AM (#43336687) Journal
    while repairing a stuck mechanism on one he got it open and found 800 grand inside, he continued to make compartments for this customer.
  • Re:Wrong lesson... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:14AM (#43336773)

    By work for them, the police wanted him to set up a front for intelligence gathering/sting, not working for them in a Hollywood style crime fighting skunk works.

    You think the drug runners would leave him alone, to retire happy with rainbows in the sky? He'd be very dead, very fast. Look at what happened to the Texas prosecutors recently. The drug trade is a massive industry with powerful actors on both sides. Being a pawn in it is dangerous.

  • Re:Wrong lesson... (Score:5, Informative)

    by aclarke ( 307017 ) <spam&clarke,ca> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:22AM (#43336849) Homepage
    The sickest thing about this whole thing is mentioned in this quote:

    [The judge] sentenced Anaya to 292 months in federal prison—more than 24 years—with no possibility of parole. Curtis Crow and Cesar Bonilla Montiel, the men at the top of the organization, received sentences half that length.

    This guy refused to work with the police, so he got over 24 years in jail with no parole. The actual drug dealers got less than half that. How is that remotely just? Maybe the guy has some culpability, but 24 years in jail with no parole? Come on. I hope he's able somehow to appeal with a better lawyer.

  • Re:War on drugs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:23AM (#43336865)

    does it make a difference why some people aren't suitable for taking care of children? why should a meth addict with children be any handled different than an acohol addict, pain killer addict, etc. with children?

    The war on drugs is a big money making machine, the police, prison guards, prison owners, those who use prison labour, police gadget manufacturers, drug dealers, etc. etc. all make money because some drugs are illegal

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

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:23AM (#43336871) Homepage

    How the fuck is it anyone's business where I got $800k?

    Ask your government. I'm merely telling you what happens [], I'm certainly not defending it.

    The legal process to get your money back is horribly flawed, and they can seize it on suspicion, and it's mostly a cash grab for the agency seizing it.

    However, the fact remains, that if law enforcement finds you with that much cash, they'll likely seize it from you -- and then it will be up to you to prove you obtained it legally in the first place.

    Have you not been paying attention? This has been going on for years.

  • Re:let me say: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:26AM (#43336909)

    you put your weed in there.

    Someone here's not gonna get your reference [].

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:53AM (#43337225)

    The defensive use of guns is usually either not discussed at all in the media or else is depicted as if it means bullets flying in all directions, like the gunfight at the OK Corral. But most defensive uses of guns do not involve actually pulling the trigger.

    If someone comes at you with a knife and you point a gun at him, he is very unlikely to keep coming, and far more likely to head in the other direction, perhaps in some haste, if he has a brain in his head. Only if he is an idiot are you likely to have to pull the trigger. And if he is an idiot with a knife coming after you, you had better have a trigger to pull.

    Surveys of American gun owners have found that 4 to 6 percent reported using a gun in self-defense within the previous five years. That is not a very high percentage but, in a country with 300 million people, that works out to hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns per year.

    Yet we almost never hear about these hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns from the media, which will report the killing of a dozen people endlessly around the clock.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:57AM (#43337287) Homepage

    "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. "

    You clearly have no idea why Marijuana was outlawed. I suggest you investigate the matter, and you will quickly realize that your simplistic world view is exactly that. I'll give you a two word starter hint to google (just add marijuana): "textile industry"

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:08AM (#43337437)
    As others have noted, he received a much longer prison sentence than the heads of the drug smuggling ring did (one who actually got a reduced sentence by testifying against Anaya, the secret compartment maker). They made an example of him.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:47AM (#43337943) Homepage

    Large amounts of cash seem like a pretty legitimate use for a secret compartment in a car, in many neighborhoods throughout the US.

    "Seem" [sic] like? For what purpose? What legitimate business has to move that amount of cash secretly rather than using checks, money orders, electronic transactions, or making (much) smaller deposits more regularly? What legitimate business has to do so on a regular enough basis that it's worth having a secret compartment installed rather than calling in an armored car company?

  • by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:05PM (#43338191) Homepage Journal

    What are you, a worthless DEA shill?

    After five years: [].

    "Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

    The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

    After ten years []:

    "There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

    The number of addicts considered "problematic" -- those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users -- had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

    Portugal's holistic approach had also led to a "spectacular" reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:03PM (#43339073)

    > The people I know that do drugs have jobs and money. Drugs
    > aren't cheap. I bet the majority of drug use is of that type.
    > Friday-Sunday and at parties.

    I think you have it almost right, allow me to make a quick adjustment here, a drug dealer, I like to think I am an expert, I certainly have been doing it for years.

    First of all, lets start here: Pot is the #1 illicit drug. When you hear "drugs", think pot, because there are twice as many pot users as the next 3 major illegal drugs combined. The majority of users use it, the majority of dealers sell it almost exlusively.

    Your average drug user picks up once or twice a week, and while its expensive, its not so expensive that he can't afford it with a normal job. In fact, your average dealer is just another user who had a little money in his pocket and was tired of paying full price. Most of them, buy an ounce and sell 8ths, taking nearly their entire profit in product, bringing in just enough to get the next ounce. This works out of course, because he has other sources of income.

    His dealer, thats me, started out like him, but had a bit more cash from a slightly better job (or some other reason, some even start on credit, seldom a good idea, but among pot users normally fairly safe and tends to get written off rather than broken legs). He sees return on his investment, but still smokes most of the actual profit, and still doesn't make enough to replace a full time job.

    In theory, I wouldn't want to see it made legal, since I make money off the deal, but, when you factor in that I only ever started with this headache because I saw how much I was spending on flowers. I want nothing more than to have some smoke in my bowl after a days work, I don't make enough off it to care about the money aspect. Its not worth the risk for the money alone, its only worth it because it subsidises my, and my partner's habbits.

    So yes, the majority of use is of that medium usage type by people with jobs or other means of gainful employment. I should know, they are my customers and no different from me, or any of the people I deal with. Are there some career criminals out there? Yup, met some of them too..... but they are.... outliers. Even the people whose supply comes from them down the road, generally don't deal with them directly.

    Seriously, even the guys that people like me get it from are just generally, people who started doing what I am doing and moved on to growing, or had an opportunity to get into shipping/arbitage.

    This is why it is little more than an endless game of whack-a-mole....the entire enforcement paradigm is based on unwarranted assumptions about who the dealers really are and our motives, which, are normally, exactly the same motives as our customers.

    Not only that, but as far as I can tell, for every "junk box" out there (yes our derrogatory name for people who use those "other" drugs) there are a number of people who "tried crack once" or "have done some meth". Even with pot, I have been selling for years and I have met nearly as many people who have smoked pot and didn't like it as I have pot enthusiasts.

  • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:18PM (#43340109) Homepage Journal

    Parent must be a public union employee.
    Private Unions can be good or bad. If they get too bad they no longer have a job. (Ask the Bakers at Hostess)
    Public Unions ARE BAD! In private unions there is management vs union. Balance can be struck.
    In Public Employee Unions there can be no balance as the management (Politicians) are put into office with the union funds.
    Why people can not see this as a horrible situation that can never work out well I will never understand.

    The Hostess situation had nothing to do with the unions. The company was sold to private investors who stole all the retirement accounts and decided to gut the business and sell the brand... but they had contracts to get out of. So they gave themselves huge bonuses and cut worker pay until the workers finally stopped working, figured they'd milked it for what it was worth, and sold the assets. You'll be able to buy Twinkies again soon, because the brand was auctioned off to the highest bidder to repay the investors (who also got paid earlier as owners in the form of retirement money funneled into payouts).

    The only way the unions failed in this situation is that they weren't powerful enough.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe