FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO Hon. Juan M. Perez-Gimenez, U.S. District Judge
Osvaldo Carlo-Linares, with whom Carlo Law Office, LLC was on
brief, for appellant.
Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, with whom Rosa Emilia
Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, and
Julia M. Meconiates, Assistant United States Attorney, were
on brief, for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Lipez and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
HOWARD, CHIEF JUDGE.
Delfin Robles-Alvarez appeals his convictions and sentence
stemming from his participation in a large-scale cocaine
trafficking conspiracy. We reject the appellant's two
claims of trial error, and therefore affirm his convictions.
However, because the district court did not address the
appellant's potentially persuasive argument in favor of a
sentence varying from the advisory guideline range, we vacate
to the evidence presented at trial, the appellant became
involved in drug trafficking through his cousin Orlando
Robles-Ortiz. Robles-Ortiz himself began trafficking drugs at
the invitation of his co-worker Ivan Ortega. Robles-Ortiz and
Ortega imported cocaine into Puerto Rico from Santo Domingo,
St. Thomas, St. Martin, Tortola, and Antigua. When Ortega
passed away in 2005, Robles-Ortiz's role escalated. He
contacted Eduardo Pérez-Figueroa, another associate of
Ortega's, and proposed an operation to smuggle 105
kilograms of cocaine into Puerto Rico from Antigua.
night before his scheduled departure, Robles-Ortiz met with
the appellant, explained the details of the upcoming trip,
and offered him the chance to participate. The appellant
accepted. The two traveled to Antigua by boat, purchased 105
kilograms of cocaine, and transported it back to Puerto Rico.
During their return trip, Robles-Ortiz and the appellant
stopped in St. Martin to meet with Enrique Rodríguez,
Ortega's former supplier. Robles-Ortiz offered
Rodríguez his services, and the two agreed to speak
again once Robles-Ortiz arrived in Puerto Rico.
days of his return from Antigua, Robles-Ortiz began making
smuggling trips to St. Martin, working with both Pérez
and Rodríguez. Robles-Ortiz completed approximately
twenty of these voyages prior to his 2012 arrest, and the
appellant joined him on more than ten. On average, the group
imported about 100 kilograms of cocaine on each trip. The
members of the conspiracy also engaged in a variety of
schemes to launder the proceeds of these smuggling
the appellant was arrested and charged with conspiracy to
distribute narcotics, see 21 U.S.C. §§
959(a), 960(a)(3) & (b)(1)(B), 963; conspiracy to import
controlled substances, see 21 U.S.C. §§
952(a), 960(a)(1) & (b)(1)(B), 963; and conspiracy to
launder monetary instruments, see 18 U.S.C. §
1956(h). The indictment specifically alleged a conspiracy to
import cocaine from St. Martin. It did not mention the
Antigua smuggling incident. After a four-day trial, the jury
convicted the appellant on all counts. The appellant moved
for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29,
arguing that the government had presented insufficient
evidence to support the charges, but the district court
denied that motion.
Presentence Investigation Report prepared by the probation
officer indicated that the appellant's guideline
sentencing range was life imprisonment. The appellant agreed
that this calculation was procedurally correct, but he also
argued for a downward variance to avoid sentencing
disparities among co-defendants. The appellant represented
that his co-conspirators were all sentenced to between
forty-six and 210 months' imprisonment. The court
nonetheless imposed a life sentence, without so much as
mentioning the disparity argument. This timely appeal
appellant presses three arguments on appeal: (1) that the
trial evidence was insufficient to support his convictions;
(2) that the district court erred in admitting evidence of
his participation in the drug smuggling expedition to
Antigua; and (3) that his life sentence was procedurally ...