FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. John A. Woodcock, Jr., U.S. District Judge]
Benjamin L. Falkner, with whom Krasnoo, Klehm & Falkner LLP
was on brief, for appellant.
Renée M. Bunker, Assistant U.S. Attorney, with whom
Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was on brief,
Thompson, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice, [*] and Barron,
SOUTER, Associate Justice.
Ortiz-Islas appeals his conviction and sentence for
conspiracy to possess cocaine for distribution and to
distribute it. We affirm.
LeBlanc orchestrated a cocaine distribution conspiracy that
completed a number of transactions beginning in 2010. He
would typically arrange for Robert Rossignol to receive money
in Canada and smuggle it across the border into Maine.
LeBlanc then would drive the money to Texas or have others,
including Chad Hallett, transport it for him. Ahead of his
and the money's arrival in Texas, LeBlanc would notify
Victor Charles and Kyle MacDonnell that he was coming so that
they could arrange a meeting between LeBlanc and a cocaine
supplier, most frequently Ortiz-Islas. Charles and MacDonnell
would provide protection and logistical support during the
transaction. After the exchange, Hallett or Charles would
drive the cocaine from Texas to Maine, where it would be
handed off to Rossignol.
2012, Charles was incarcerated for a parole violation, but he
sought to preserve his place in the conspiracy even while in
custody, by receiving payment on future deals between LeBlanc
and Ortiz-Islas in recognition of the logistical groundwork
he had helped to lay in the past. Both LeBlanc and
Ortiz-Islas agreed to pay Charles for deals completed while
he was locked up. At one point, Ortiz-Islas contacted
Charles's wife to obtain LeBlanc's phone number, and
Charles ensured that LeBlanc and Ortiz-Islas knew how to make
contact with each other.
planned to complete a deal in June 2012 and spoke ahead of
time directly to Ortiz-Islas, since Charles was in custody.
LeBlanc made the plans known to Charles, who requested that
his share be paid to his mother. Hallett received the money
for the June deal from Rossignol in Maine, and, for this
particular trip, was supposed to meet LeBlanc in New Jersey,
where they would exchange Canadian currency for American
dollars. Hallett then would drive the converted cash to
Texas, where he would connect with LeBlanc again. As part of
the June deal, Ortiz-Islas agreed to "front"
cocaine to LeBlanc: Ortiz-Islas would give LeBlanc more drugs
than he paid for on the understanding that LeBlanc would make
up the difference in a subsequent transaction.
June arrangements went awry. Hallett was arrested driving the
cash from Maine and agreed to participate in a controlled
delivery of the money to LeBlanc in New Jersey, as planned.
LeBlanc was then arrested in New Jersey on June 28 and, like
Hallett, agreed to cooperate. He placed recorded phone calls
to Ortiz-Islas, fabricating a reason to stall and work out
new logistics for what would be a controlled transaction.
LeBlanc and Ortiz-Islas were still hashing out the details of
the delayed deal, on August 16 a grand jury in Maine indicted
Rossignol, Charles, and Ortiz-Islas for conspiring "with
persons known and unknown" to distribute and to possess
with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine
in "Maine and elsewhere" over a period beginning
"no later than January 1, 2011, " and continuing
until "no earlier than June 28, 2012" (the date of
was supposed to be the June deal ended as a sting operation
on September 18. Ortiz-Islas met with a federal agent posing
as LeBlanc's courier and was arrested as they approached
the location of the planned swap, where cocaine was seized.
and Charles, who were included in the indictment alongside
Ortiz-Islas, pleaded guilty, as did LeBlanc and Hallett, who
were charged separately. MacDonnell received immunity. At
Ortiz-Islas's trial, Charles, LeBlanc, Hallett, and
MacDonnell testified against him, Charles attesting that on
behalf of LeBlanc he made about six trips to Maine
transporting cocaine purchased from Ortiz-Islas. The first
was said to involve three kilograms, and the quantity on each
subsequent trip was at least five. The jury convicted
Ortiz-Islas of conspiring to distribute and to possess with
intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846.
sentencing, the district court found Ortiz-Islas accountable
for almost 34 kilograms of cocaine, which (at the time) gave
him a base offense level of 34 under U.S. Sentencing
Guidelines Manual § 2D1.1(c)(3) (U.S. Sentencing
Comm'n 2013). The court applied a two-level increase in
light of evidence that Ortiz-Islas possessed a gun at some of
the drug deals, id. § 2D1.1(b)(1), but varied
back downward by two levels at the parties' urging in
recognition of impending Guidelines amendments providing
two-level reductions in drug-quantity offense levels. An
offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of I
yielded a Guidelines sentencing range of 151 to 188 months.
Id. (sentencing table). The Government recommended a
sentence at the top of this range. But taking account of the
other conspirators' sentences (Hallett received 48
months, LeBlanc got 104, and Charles and Rossignol 120 each),
the court sentenced Ortiz-Islas within the Guidelines range
to 170 months' imprisonment. He appealed.
raises four issues, none ...