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United States v. Torres-Landrua

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 10, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
CARLOS H. TORRES-LANDRUA, a/k/a Carlitos, Defendant, Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 60

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Juan M. Pérez-Giménez, U.S. District Judge.

Affirmed.

Linda Backiel, for appellant.

Jenifer Yois Hernández-Vega, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Juan Carlos Reyes-Ramos, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

Before Torruella, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Carlos Torres-Landrú a (" Torres" ) was charged with two counts of drug-trafficking and one count of money laundering. He entered a straight guilty plea on all counts and was sentenced to a 168-month term of imprisonment, at the very bottom of his Guidelines imprisonment range. Torres now appeals, arguing that the district court violated his due process rights and erred by declining to award him a minor role adjustment and a downward departure for coercion and duress. He also challenges the substantive reasonableness of his sentence. Finding no error or abuse of discretion, we affirm.

I. Facts

Because Torres pled guilty, our discussion of the facts is drawn from the change-of-plea colloquy, the Presentence Report (" PSR" ), and the transcript of the sentencing hearing. See United States v. Cintrón-Echautegui, 604 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2010).

Torres, together with at least fifteen other individuals, participated in a drug-trafficking conspiracy that began on or about the year 2005 and ended in July 2010, and was headed by José Figueroa-Agosto, a/k/a " Junior Cá psula." The conspiracy transported large amounts of cocaine via motor vessels from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. Some of the imported cocaine was sold locally in Puerto Rico, while the rest was transported to the continental United States for sale. Some of the drug proceeds were smuggled into the Dominican Republic on these same vessels.

Torres participated in at least five of these trips. He smuggled between 150 to 700 kilograms of cocaine per trip and was paid a total of approximately $350,000 for his smuggling ventures. Each trip lasted three or four days, during which time he and his co-conspirators would stay at Casa de Campo, an elite luxury resort in La Romana, and would be entertained by female strippers before returning to Puerto Rico with huge shipments of cocaine.

The drug-trafficking conspiracy was paired with a money laundering conspiracy, which engaged in financial transactions to promote the drug-trafficking conspiracy and conceal the illegitimate nature of the drug proceeds. To that end, the conspiracy used drug proceeds to purchase motor vessels to be used in the drug smuggling voyages from the Dominican Republic, as well as real estate, motor vehicles, and businesses. In so doing, the organization would generally hire individuals with qualifying credit ratings to act as " straw owners."

Torres was also a member of the money laundering conspiracy. He had one of the vessels that had been purchased with drug proceeds transferred to his name. Torres then loaded this vessel with drugs in the Dominican Republic and smuggled the drugs into Puerto Rico. Torres was also paid exorbitant amounts of money, such as $11,000 and $25,000, to simply wash and repair jet skis in the Dominican Republic. This money, paid in cash, was in actuality obtained from drug sales.

Torres's biggest and last drug smuggling voyage took place in January 2008. On that occasion, he smuggled 700 kilograms of cocaine and was paid $90,000. After this trip, Torres did not participate in any other trip, nor was he called by any coconspirator to participate in any further conspiracy activity.

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More than two years later, in November 2010, Torres was charged, along with others, in a multi-count indictment. Specifically, Torres was charged with conspiracy to import controlled substances into the customs territory of the United States, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 963 (Count I), conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count II), and conspiracy to launder money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) (Count V). Torres entered a straight guilty plea as to all counts.

The PSR was disclosed to the parties on September 25, 2012, and the parties were advised that any objection to the facts and Guidelines applications should be filed in writing within fourteen days. No objections were filed within the prescribed deadline. Two months later, however, on November 28, 2012, through his sentencing memorandum, ...


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