FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Juan M. Pérez-Giménez, U.S.
Pourinski on brief for appellant.
F. Klumper, Assistant United States Attorney, Acting Chief,
Appellate Division, and Rosa Emilia
Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, on
brief for appellee.
Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice,
and Kayatta, Circuit Judge.
KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.
2014, Defendant Santos Gómez-Encarnación was
charged with both money laundering and conspiracy to commit
money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956.
Tried, convicted on both counts, and sentenced to fifty-one
months in prison, he now appeals both his conviction and his
sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.
2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA")
began an investigation into potential bulk cash smuggling by
Juan Polanco-Ventura ("Polanco"). On April 28,
2014, the DEA intercepted a call between Polanco and a
co-conspirator, Daniel Pilier, during which Polanco told
Pilier that he was going to Pilier's friend's house
and Pilier told Polanco to pick up the money. Shortly
thereafter, Polanco called the defendant, Santos
Gómez-Encarnación, and asked if he could come
by. An agent observed Polanco go to
Gómez-Encarnación's residence, where
Polanco received something through his car window from a
person later identified by the agent as co-defendant Pedro
Trinidad-Marine ("Trinidad"). Contemporaneously,
Polanco called Pilier and informed him that he had picked up
the money and would wire him some. Polanco was seen shortly
thereafter near a money transfer business, holding a piece of
paper similar to a receipt.
next month, agents intercepted several calls between Polanco
and an associate outside the United States during which the
callers discussed the smuggling of currency to fund drug
shipments. The month after that, agents began surveilling
Gómez-Encarnación's residence, and on June
12, observed Trinidad pick up Gómez-Encarnación
at his home. On June 26, after receiving intelligence that
co-defendant Henry Carmona Reyes ("Carmona") was
coming to San Juan, agents established surveillance on
Carmona and observed him and Trinidad drive (with a few
stops) to Gómez-Encarnación's residence,
where agents observed the three men talking.
also intercepted several phone calls between Pilier and
Gómez-Encarnación. On one call, Pilier told
Gómez-Encarnación that he needed "pigeon
peas, " which, an agent testified, was a code phrase
referring to drugs. Subsequent calls used additional coded
language referring to drug pricing. The conversations also
revealed that Gómez-Encarnación had changed
phone numbers, which, an agent would later testify at trial,
is typical in a drug trafficking operation.
August 28, DEA agents arrested
Gómez-Encarnación at his residence.
Gómez-Encarnación told agents about some
currency in a dresser, but denied the presence of firearms or
drugs. A search of the residence recovered marijuana,
ketamine, approximately $65, 000 cash, and weapons including
a Glock 21 pistol that had been modified so as to be capable
of firing in fully automatic mode.
October 2014, Gómez-Encarnación was indicted
for conspiring to conduct financial transactions involving
the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, described in the
indictment as "the felonious manufacture, importation,
receiving, concealment, buying, selling, or otherwise dealing
in controlled substances." The indictment also charged
the underlying substantive crime of money laundering.
elected to go to trial. At trial, agents testified as to the
facts described above and the wiretaps were introduced as
evidence. Crucially, Polanco testified against
Gómez-Encarnación, stating that Polanco had
made arrangements to pick up $40, 000 from
Gómez-Encarnación "gave" it to him
outside Gómez-Encarnación's residence, and
that the money was derived from drug proceeds.
Gómez-Encarnación was convicted by a jury of
both money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. The
district court denied his motion for acquittal under Federal
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29.
sentencing, the court imposed a six-level enhancement under
U.S.S.G. § 2S1.1(b)(1) after finding that
Gómez-Encarnación knew that the crime involved
drug trafficking proceeds. In addition, the district court
denied Gómez-Encarnación's request for a
reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2(a) or (b) for having
only a minor or minimal role in the offense. The district