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United States v. Betancourt-Perez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 10, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
ANGEL ABNER BETANCOURT-PEREZ, Defendant, Appellee.

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

          Joshua L. Gordon on brief for appellant.

          Mainon A. Schwartz, Assistant United States Attorney, Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Selya, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

          THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

         For his involvement in various illegal drug-related activities, Defendant-Appellant Angel Abner Betancourt-Pérez was indicted in three separate criminal cases, which were resolved by a single plea agreement. Betancourt-Pérez now appeals his sentence, arguing that the district court should have accepted the plea agreement's guideline calculations. But since Betancourt-Pérez waived his right to appeal, we dismiss.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         A. Arrest and Indictments

         On May 5, 2010, the government unsealed an indictment charging 70 co-conspirators for their participation in a large drug trafficking organization known as "El Castillo, " which operated out of a public housing project in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and its surrounding areas. Betancourt-Pérez, one of El Castillo's "runners, "[2] was among those indicted on various drug and firearm counts.

         Although an arrest warrant was issued for Betancourt-Pérez, he remained a fugitive for over a year. Finally, on May 10, 2011, after receiving a tip, law enforcement agents surveilled Betancourt-Pérez's apartment and observed him loading boxes (in which large quantities of marijuana were later found) into a vehicle in the parking lot. They arrested Betancourt-Pérez that day, and also executed a search warrant for his apartment where they found and seized more drugs and a gun.[3] Based on what the agents had observed and seized at the apartment, the government filed a second indictment, charging Betancourt-Pérez with two drug counts and a firearm count.

         Now, as it turns out, Betancourt-Pérez was not only a member of El Castillo's operations, but also a part of another drug conspiracy -- this one engaged in sourcing marijuana from Mexico, California, and Florida, and distributing it throughout Puerto Rico. For these separate drug-related activities, Betancourt-Pérez was indicted a third time.

         B. Plea Deal and Sentencing

         The parties eventually negotiated a plea deal that resolved the charges in all three of Betancourt-Pérez's criminal cases. As part of the deal, Betancourt-Pérez agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute from each of the three indictments, involving between 3.5 and 5 kilograms of cocaine, between 2 and 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, and between 100 and 400 kilograms of marijuana, respectively, as well as one count from the second indictment for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

         Because of the relatedness of the drug crimes, the plea deal grouped the three conspiracy counts together, and calculated a guideline range of 51 to 63 months (an erroneous calculation, the parties now agree).[4]As for the firearm charge, as provided for by U.S.S.G. § 2K2.4(b), the plea agreement assigned a consecutive guideline sentence equal to the statutory minimum, in this case 60 months, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i).

         The plea agreement went on to memorialize a joint sentencing recommendation: concurrent sentences of 60 to 120 months for the three conspiracy counts, and a consecutive 60-month sentence for the firearm charge. The agreement also contained a provision in which Betancourt-Pérez waived his right ...


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