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United States v. Bunnell

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 21, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Charles William Bunnell, Defendant.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Defendant Charles Bunnell, who has elected to represent himself in this action, has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. Doc. 70. The motion is fully briefed (Docs. 70, 75, 97) and no party has requested oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Background.

Defendant is charged with attempt to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a), 1591(b)(1), and 1594(a). He is also charged with attempt to engage in interstate kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) and (d).

Defendant's arrest resulted from an undercover operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"). The operation began after the FBI discovered that individuals in the United States were seeking to purchase foreign sex slaves from a Malaysian organization. Doc. 75 at 2. The FBI took over the website of the Malaysian organization, mimicked the profile used by the organization, and posted advertisements on the same website ( Id. The FBI advertised a slave auction with 18-26 year old Asian, Hispanic, and Eastern European females available for sale. Id. The FBI also sent emails to those who previously had expressed an interest in purchasing sex slaves through the Malaysian organization, including Defendant. Id.

On August 23, 2013, Defendant responded to the FBI's email and expressed an interest in the slave auction. Id. at 2-3. Defendant provided his phone number and, over the next few months, communicated with the FBI via email and phone about the auction. Id. at 3. Defendant was unable to attend the auction in December 2013, and sent a text message to the FBI's undercover employees ("UCEs") requesting a "direct purchase" of one of the kidnapped females. Id.

The government alleges that Defendant arrived in Arizona on January 25, 2014 to purchase a sex slave. Id. at 2. Defendant had breakfast that morning with two UCEs. Defendant told the UCEs that he had brought the drug Scopolamine and planned to administer it to the sex slave so that he would not need to restrain her during his drive back to California. Id. Defendant explained that the drug is an extremely potent inhalant which takes away a person's willpower and ability to resist, and that the drug is dangerous due to the possibility of overdosing. Id. Later that same day, Defendant and the UCEs travelled to a warehouse where Defendant believed the sex slave was being held. Defendant paid the UCEs $200 and was arrested.

Following the arrest, FBI Special Agent Ryan Blay advised Defendant that federal agents would be executing search warrants on his vehicle and hotel room and asked whether there was anything in either location that could harm them. Defendant said there was a container of Scopolamine in the glove box of his vehicle. When agents searched the vehicle, they found a bottle of Scopolamine and an applicator, as well as restraints, zips ties, rope, a sex toy, bondage equipment, and a video camera.

The government asserts that it knew of Defendant's interest in sex slaves because he was identified in a 2012 investigation into the Malaysian organization. Doc. 75 at 3-4. Defendant allegedly used the email address and the username "Master Chuck" to express his interest in purchasing a non-consensual sex slave. Id. at 4. Defendant communicated with the Malaysian organization, stating that he wanted a "slave to own" and asserting that he had both owned and trained slaves in the past. Id. The government alleges that Defendant did not purchase a slave in 2012 because the organization could not provide a woman that met his physical specifications.

During the undercover sting operation, Defendant admitted to the FBI that he had been involved in slave trading in the past. Id. Defendant told the UCE that he "had involuntaries in the past and found them to be quite gratifying." Id. He also told the UCE that he owned a "retraining facility" in Nevada that could hold 12-18 pieces of "property." Id. Defendant asserted that his slave trading activities occurred at least 15 years ago, that he engaged in them for approximately 12 years, and that no one had "ever got[ten] out." Id. at 4-5. Defendant claimed that he retrained women by placing them on an exam table with stirrups and getting "in there with a speculum" to convince the women that a device had been placed inside. Id. at 5. During an in-person meeting on October 18, 2013, the Defendant provided the UCEs with tips on how to avoid law enforcement detection, noting that "I'm somebody who has done the business, and done it fairly successfully for quite some time, and, you know, I'm still out in the public. And I haven't been caught." Id.

II. Legal Standard.

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the well-pled factual allegations in the indictment are taken as true and read in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States v. Milovanovic, 678 F.3d 713, 720 (9th Cir. 2012); United States v. Renzi, 861 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1021 (D. Ariz. 2012). Where a motion to dismiss is based on arguments that raise disputed facts, the motion should be denied. United States v. Tawahongva, 456 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1125 (D. Ariz. 2006).

III. ...

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