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State v. Lovell

Superior Court of Delaware

December 17, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
ISAAC LOVELL, Defendant.

          Submitted: December 11, 2019

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress GRANTED

          Michael W. Modica, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendant.

          Stephen McDonald, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State of Delaware.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          The Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli

         Defendant Isaac Lovell ("Defendant") has moved to suppress all evidence obtained through a search of a residence conducted pursuant to a search warrant. Defendant claims that the warrant was legally invalid and that the search therefore violated Defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Delaware Constitution, and the Delaware Code. The State opposes Defendant's motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On December 28, 2018, a special investigator ("Investigator") of the Delaware Department of Justice ("DOJ") obtained a search warrant for a residence at 430 Ranee Loop, Bear, Delaware ("Ranee Loop Residence") in connection with an investigation of Defendant for tax evasion and/or fraud and false statements. The warrant authorized the search of the Ranee Loop Residence for the following property: photographs and/or video images of the Ranee Loop Residence; documents related to business conducted in the name of Defendant, Phire-Fly Contracting ("Phire-Fly"), I Lovell Contracting, or any related entity; financial records that establish income for and are related to Defendant, Phire-Fly, I Lovell Contracting, or any related entity; United States currency; and electronic devices capable of storing/transmitting information.

         In support of the warrant, Investigator attached an affidavit of probable cause which set forth the following facts regarding the State's investigation:

• In September 2016, WSFS Bank informed the DOJ of suspected financial exploitation of a WSFS Bank customer ("Alleged Victim"). Alleged Victim had written several checks payable to Defendant and Phire-Fly. The checks were endorsed by "I Lovell" and reflected the endorser's Delaware driver's license number ("DDL") and street address, which was 509 Caledonia Way, Bear, Delaware ("Caledonia Way Address").
• A query of the DDL revealed that the DDL was assigned to Defendant at the Caledonia Way Address. Further investigation revealed that Elizabeth Riley Lovell ("Elizabeth") was Defendant's spouse and also identified the Caledonia Way Address as her residence.
• In March 2017, Investigator observed a red truck bearing advertisements for Phire-Fly traveling on Interstate 95. Investigator later learned that the truck was registered to Defendant at the Caledonia Way Address.
• Months later, Investigator learned that a utility service connection had been established in Elizabeth's name at the Ranee Loop Residence.
• Investigator surveilled the Ranee Loop Residence on two occasions. On both occasions, Investigator observed Defendant's Phire-Fly truck parked in the driveway.

         The affidavit of probable cause also sets forth the following information regarding Defendant's businesses and tax returns:

• In 2015, Defendant applied for a license to conduct business as a contractor as Phire-Fly. The application indicated that Defendant began operating Phire-Fly in Delaware in 2015.
• Alleged Victim paid Defendant and/or Phire-Fly over $575, 000 from January 2015 to December 2017.
• Defendant's 2015 tax returns indicate that Defendant's business, I Lovell Contracting, claimed $125, 000 in gross receipts.
• Defendant did not file tax returns for the 2016 or 2017 tax years. Alleged Victim's payments to Defendant during 2016 and 2017 exceeded the amounts required to file tax returns for the 2016 and 2017 tax years.
• United States tax law requires retention of tax records and documents for a minimum of three years and longer if a person files either a ...

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