The United States v. Marti

The United States v. Marti is a significant case.  It is more significant today than it was in 1967.  A source of information (SOI) for the Baltimore Office of US Customs advised New York that a large quantity of stolen jewelry was going to be taken out of the country.  It appeared to be headed for South America through JFK Airport.

I established a lookout at those airlines most likely to be used and got lucky on October 28, 1967.  Based on a number of items we thought would be involved, the itinerary , the likelihood the individual would be of South American extraction, carrying several very heavy suitcases, ,  connecting from another flight, etc., I got a call at home that a “possible” had checked two heavy bags to South America.

At the airport I examined and weighed the bags.  Then I had the airline to page Mr. Marti.  In the baggage loading area I asked him, with a witness, to identify his bags.  Once he did that, I asked him to produce the claim tickets, and his airline ticket showing he intended to exit the United States.  Examining luggage leaving the USA was rare, if ever undertaken by our country.   Everyone always understood entry inspection by US Customs was a fact of life upon arrival, but, never remembered a search when departing.

The law is essentially the same coming and going, you and your possessions are subject to search without a warrant.  I executed a warrantless Customs search of Luis A Marti, and his luggage.  Typical burglar equipment, a pistol, a walkie-talkie radio, two radio carrying cases were found.  The loot was 1,516 pieces of jewelry with a wholesale value of $75,000.

Through the police, FBI, etc the seizure was circulated through the Mid-Atlantic States.  Though several insurance companies responded, most of the jewelry was not identified and wound up being forfeited to the government.

The significance of the MARTI case is the firm establishment of the right of the government to conduct warrantless searches when someone or something is leaving the country. The case was affirmed by the Supreme Court and is often cited in present day attempts to take munitions, weapons, technical items etc., out of the United States.

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