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United States v. Mendez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 11, 2015

UNITED STATES, Appellee,
v.
JORGE LUIS MENDEZ, a/k/a Daniel, Defendant, Appellant

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

Kerry A. Haberlin on brief for appellant.

Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, Sung-Hee Suh, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Scott A.C. Meisler, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hope S. Olds, Senior Trial Attorney, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Criminal Division, on brief for appellee.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 94

THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

Jorge Luis Mendez, who was indicted in connection with a vast conspiracy to provide identification documents to undocumented aliens in the United States, pled guilty to various charges. He was sentenced to just over six years in prison. That sentence forms the basis for this appeal. Mendez contends that it is too long and that various errors were made by the sentencing judge when handing it down. Because our review of his claims is frustrated by an insufficient explanation from the district court, we vacate and remand for resentencing.

BACKGROUND

A. The Conspiracy

Mendez, along with fifty-plus cohorts, was part of a scheme to supply undocumented aliens in the continental United States with the identities of United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico.[1] The conspiracy extended over the course of almost three years (April 2009 to January 2012) and spanned the country, with its members operating out of various states (Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, to name a few) and Puerto Rico.

There were distinct jobs to be done, with Puerto Ricobased Mendez operating as a " Savarona Supplier." The Savarona Suppliers would procure " unlawful document sets," a term defined in the indictment and presentence investigation report (PSR) as " Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates and corresponding U.S. Social security cards (both pertaining to the same Puerto Rican person)," as well as individual fraudulently obtained documents (termed " unlawful documents" ), like driver's licenses and voter registration cards.

Savarona Suppliers, like Mendez, then transmitted the documents to identity brokers (who were the ones bringing in the customers) and the brokers would then sell the sets for $700 to $2,500 a piece, with more money required for additional individual documents. The customers were undocumented aliens and others residing in the continental United States.

B. The Indictment

In December 2011, Mendez, along with fifty-two co-defendants, was named in a fifty-count indictment. Mendez was picked up the next month. At the time of his arrest, he had in his possession numerous identity documents in other people's names, including eleven Puerto Rico birth ...


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