FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. Patti B. Saris, Chief U.S. District
J. Ritchie for appellant Joshua Gonsalves.
L. Gordon, with whom Law Office of Joshua L. Gordon was on
brief, for appellant Stanley Gonsalves.
Randall Ernest Kromm, Assistant United States Attorney, with
whom Carmen M. Ortiz, United States Attorney, was on brief,
Lynch, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.
Stanley and Joshua Gonsalves (to keep the Gonsalveses
straight, we call them Stanley and Joshua but mean no
disrespect) were convicted on multiple counts stemming from
their operation of an oxycodone-trafficking ring on Cape Cod.
Both now challenge their convictions, and Stanley challenges
his sentence. Finding none of the brothers' plaints have
merit, we affirm.
Gonsalves brothers' trial spanned eighteen days and
included testimony from thirty-four witnesses. We decline to
recount it all now (and to explain the brothers' claims
on appeal, we don't have to). But to put everything in
its necessary context, here is the Cliff's-Notes version
of what happened; we will detail the rest later, when we
assess the brothers' respective arguments.
The Cast and Crew of the Conspiracy
story of the Gonsalves brothers' drug-trafficking
conspiracy begins around the end of 2009, when Stanley
(Joshua wasn't on board yet) started buying oxycodone
pills in bulk from Florida resident John Willis.
Stanley's objective: to get (and resell for profit) as
many pills as possible. Here's how the operation worked:
both Stanley and Willis paid runners who carried money down
to Florida to buy oxycodone pills from Willis, Stanley's
primary supplier. Willis (or other members of his Florida
operation) hid the pills in vitamin bottles, doctored to look
never-opened, then gave the bottles to the runners to carry
back to Stanley in Massachusetts. Stanley (and members of his
Massachusetts-based crew) counted the pills and packaged them
into lots of 100. Stanley then sold those lots to lower-level
drug dealers. At first, Stanley paid Willis $14 per
thirty-milligram pill and sold them to dealers for $19 each.
Over time, the wholesale and the resale prices went up to $17
and $21, respectively. Dealers sold the pills on the street
for $30 a pop.
joined his brother's conspiracy in 2010, shortly after he
was released from jail on an unrelated charge. At first
Joshua worked as a runner, but he eventually took over some
of Stanley's responsibilities in the conspiracy, such as
buying pills from suppliers. He sold some pills on his own,
runners for the Gonsalves brothers--all friends, family,
girlfriends, and exes--made regular trips to Florida. At
first, they flew. Then they switched to driving after one of
the runners was busted in the airport on his way back to
Massachusetts carrying a bottle of about 8, 000 pills. The
runners each transported at least 1, 000 pills per trip,
though some reported as many as 8, 000 or 9, 000 per trip,
and one reported that she once carried almost 20, 000 pills.
The brothers' operation "flooded" the Cape Cod
market, bringing in an estimated 371, 327 pills in under
three years (and that's an allegedly conservative
Johnny Willis meets Johnny Law--and so do the Gonsalves
(presumably) unbeknownst to Stanley and Joshua, Willis was
the subject of a multi-agency criminal investigation
originally initiated by the FBI's Asian Organized Crime
Task Force to target two other, Boston-area crime lords. (The
Willis-specific branch of the investigation was known as
"Operation White Devil.") While they were looking
into the Willis operation, the FBI-led task force (that also
included ATF and IRS agents, Massachusetts State Police, plus
some Boston police officers to boot) found out about
Willis' top customers--the Gonsalves brothers. The
FBI-led task force also learned that the Barnstable Police
Department and a DEA-led Cape Cod Drug Task Force were
already looking into the Gonsalveses' activities, so the
task forces joined forces. Operation White Devil culminated
in the May 2011 arrest of Willis and some of his henchmen,
which turned off the Florida-to-Massachusetts pill faucet.
Undeterred, the Gonsalves brothers regrouped and started
selling oxycodone bought from new suppliers. But, the
post-Willis era did not last long because by this point, law
enforcement had new information from arrested Willis crew
members, as well as from their own posse of confidential
informants ("CIs"), clueing them in on more of the
particulars of the Gonsalves brothers' illegal dealings.
from one informant, CI-1, led to the February 2012 arrest of
Joshua and crew member Katelyn Shaw (Joshua's
then-girlfriend) and the seizure of over twenty grand in
cash, drug paraphernalia, and a good lot of oxycodone pills.
About a month later, police seized another $75, 000 from
another Gonsalves crew member (turned informant) which had
been earmarked for an oxycodone resupply; and since that was
"the end of the money, " the seizure brought the
Gonsalveses' operation to a near-halt.
November 1, 2012, a grand jury indicted the brothers on a
charge of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and
Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycodone in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 846. A second superseding indictment, issued eighteen
months later on May 8, 2014, further charged (1) Money
Laundering Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1956(h); (2) multiple counts of Concealment Money Laundering
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i); (3)
Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking
Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); (4) Drug
and Money Laundering Forfeiture allegations under 21 U.S.C.
§ 853 and 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(1); and, against
Stanley only, (5) Unlawful Monetary Transactions in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1957.
pretrial proceedings, Joshua moved to suppress all items
seized during the February 2012 traffic stop. The district
court denied the motion. For its part, the government moved
in limine to admit evidence of the brothers' prior
incarceration. That motion got denied, too. The
Gonsalveses' trial finally got underway on September 8,
2014. Here are some of the highlights of the proceeding that
animate the brothers' appellant challenges. During the
trial, Joshua moved for a mistrial three times after
government witnesses mentioned that he had done prison
time--testimony which violated the trial court's
pre-trial ruling excluding any mention of either
brother's prior incarceration. Stanley made his own
mistrial motion after the government referenced Stanley's
stint in the slammer in closing arguments. All four motions
the brothers mounted a credibility defense throughout the
trial and in their closing arguments. They contended that the
government's witnesses could not be believed because some
were addicted to drugs, some were "jilted" lovers
who wanted revenge, and many had taken the stand in exchange
for lesser sentences or deferred prosecution for their own
roles in the conspiracy. Despite these credibility
challenges, both brothers were found guilty on all of the
charges except the § 924(c) count--Stanley was convicted
of using a rifle in furtherance of the conspiracy but
acquitted of using a pistol, and Joshua was acquitted as to
determined, the proceedings entered phase two--forfeiture.
Responding to additional instructions from the trial court,
the jury found that two cars, a house, and the drug-deal cash
seized from Joshua and Shaw were all subject to forfeiture.
The jury also calculated that over five million dollars was
"generated as proceeds of the [brothers'] oxycodone
trafficking conspiracy"-- attributing 1.5 million to
Joshua and the rest to Stanley.
the trial's end, Joshua was first up for sentencing and
received twenty years to serve. (He does not challenge his
sentence here, so we do not get into the details.) Stanley
was next up. His pre-sentence investigation report
("PSR") calculated a Guidelines sentencing range of
life in prison, plus sixty months for his gun conviction
under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The parties and the judge, in
the end, agreed that life wasn't called for, so Stanley
was sentenced to twenty-five years--twenty years for the
drug-trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, and unlawful
monetary transactions, plus five years for the gun charge.
This appeal followed.
brothers challenge the following aspects of their convictions
and sentences: (1) Joshua argues that the district court
should have suppressed the evidence seized the night of his
February 2012 arrest, (2) both brothers challenge the
district court's denial of their motions for mistrial,
(3) Stanley contends that the government presented
insufficient evidence against him to support his conviction,
and (4) Stanley argues that the court incorrectly calculated
his Guidelines sentencing range. We address each issue in
Warrantless Car Search
contends that the district court erred in denying his motion
to suppress all of the evidence seized the night of his
February 2012 arrest (the drugs, the money, and the digital
scale). We begin with the background information necessary to
explain that night's events, presenting the facts in the
light most favorable to the government. See
Burgos-Montes, 786 F.3d at 99.
briefly mentioned before, on February 27, 2012, police acted
on a tip they received from CI-1. The informant who provided
the information leading to the arrest of Joshua and Shaw and
the seizure of illegal contraband claimed to be a regular
enough oxycodone buyer that he or she knew when Joshua and
Shaw's supply was running low--and when they planned to
restock. CI-1 had proved his or her bona fides over
• In October 2011, CI-1 told police that Gonsalves
associate John Doe 1 had planned an off-Cape resupply run.
Police observed John Doe 1 meet with John Doe 2 (whom CI-1
had also previously identified as a Gonsalves associate).
Police followed the two men on their drive off the Cape and
back, as predicted. CI-1 then confirmed the new supply had
• In November 2011, CI-1 told police about another
off-Cape trip to buy oxycodone from a supplier; after
watching the two men identified by CI-1 drive off together,
police pulled them over and seized $69, 000.
• In February 2012, CI-1 made a controlled buy from
Joshua and Shaw.
hottest tip came on February 27, when CI-1 told police that
Joshua and Shaw had put together enough money to buy more
pills from an oxycodone supplier police referred to as
"John Doe 4." Both CI-1 and a second CI had
previously told police that John Doe 4 was Joshua's
primary post-Willis oxycodone source. CI-1 said Joshua and
Shaw would leave home around 4:30 that afternoon in
Joshua's black Cadillac, drive to the "New Bedford
area, " and return with about 2, 000 pills. Sure enough,
Barnstable police spotted Joshua, Shaw, and a second woman
(who turned out to be Shaw's friend Ariana Tavares) in
the black Cadillac heading westbound (towards New Bedford) at
4:50. Police tailed them to a house in Acushnet, a town that
shares a border with New Bedford. They watched the trio park
next to a white Infiniti, exit the car, and enter the house
where the Infiniti was parked. Police knew from pulling over
that same white Infiniti one month prior that the car
belonged to John Doe 4.
Joshua, Shaw, and Tavares left some two hours later, police
tailed them to the highway, clocked Joshua driving sixty-five
miles-per-hour in a fifty-five mile-per-hour zone, and pulled
him over. When the officer who conducted the stop reported
back to headquarters, he was instructed to ask Joshua for
permission to search the car. But if Joshua refused, the
officer was instructed to search the car anyway because the
police had probable cause to believe "the occupants of
the vehicle were in possession of oxycodone." Joshua did
refuse, so police ordered him, Shaw, and Tavares out of the
car. During a frisk of Joshua, police found a $6, 253 cash
wad in his pocket. It was too dark outside to search the car,
so police called for a drug-sniffing dog. Overhearing the
talk about the arrival of a drug dog, Shaw pulled a bag of
pills from her bra and threw them into the woods. Seeing the
toss, police recovered the pills, precipitating the arrests
of the three occupants. In a post-arrest search, police found
another $16, 760 in a speaker box in the trunk, a digital
scale in the console, and a second cache of pills in
subsequently moved to suppress the evidence seized during the
search, claiming that the stop and search violated his Fourth
Amendment rights because at the time of the stop, police did
not have reasonable suspicion to believe Joshua had committed
a crime. The district court held a pre-trial hearing on
Joshua's motion. Mark Butler, a Barnstable police
detective then serving on the DEA's Cape Cod Drug Task
Force and investigating the Gonsalves brothers, submitted an
affidavit about the Gonsalves investigation and the traffic
stop and he also testified at the hearing. Butler was not
present at the stop and search, but he explained the state of
law enforcement's Gonsalves investigation and his belief
that police had probable cause to search Joshua's car at
the time based on CI-1's information. After the hearing,
the court denied Joshua's motion. The court found that
CI-1's tip gave police reasonable suspicion that Joshua
was involved in drug trafficking, and that reasonable
suspicion justified the stop, Joshua's frisk, and
detaining the car and its occupants until the ...