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U.S. v. Fuentes

filed: January 17, 1992.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DANIEL PEDROSA FUENTES, APPELLANT



On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Criminal Action No. 90-00275-02)

Before: Stapleton, Greenberg, and Aldisert, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stapleton

Opinion OF THE COURT

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge :

This appeal presents the issue of whether a defendant in a federal criminal prosecution can be sentenced under United States Sentencing Guideline § 3B1.1 as a "supervisor" or "manager" in the absence of evidence that he or she directed the activities of at least one other person.*fn1 The district court found that Daniel Pedrosa Fuentes had been a "supervisor" or "manager" without such evidence because he had "managed a crackhouse." Because we disagree with the district court's interpretation of § 3B1.1, we will vacate the sentence and remand to the district court for resentencing.

I.

Mr. Fuentes was convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to deliver, 21 U.S.C. § 846, actual possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, 21 U.S.C. § 841, and aiding and abetting, 18 U.S.C. § 2. These charges arose from Mr. Fuentes' participation in a drug organization operating in Philadelphia. Romona Garcia, a codefendant, was the leader of this organization, which sold approximately three kilograms of cocaine per week through street vendors and two "crack houses." The drug ring was exposed when Emilio Sauris, who was both a paid DEA informant and Ms. Garcia's godson, passed information about the organization's activities to the authorities. Mr. Sauris reported that Ms. Garcia and Mr. Fuentes traveled to Florida to purchase a large quantity of cocaine. When the pair returned from their trip, Mr. Sauris observed Ms. Garcia open kilogram packages of cocaine at one of the crack houses (the "American Street" house). He also saw Mr. Fuentes "cook" the cocaine in order to produce crack and saw Ms. Garcia put the crack into glass vials.

Based upon this and other information, DEA agents obtained and executed search warrants for the two crack houses. During the search of the American Street house, the agents discovered a large quantity of cocaine, a wide variety of drug paraphernalia and nearly $59,000 in cash. In addition, the agents seized mail and clothing belonging to Mr. Fuentes. Based upon this evidence and Mr. Sauris' testimony at trial, the prosecution established that Mr. Fuentes lived in the house and was essentially in charge of it, conducting and safeguarding its operations.

During the sentencing of Mr. Fuentes, the district court set Mr. Fuentes' criminal history category at I and his base offense level at 32. It then adjusted the base offense level upward by three levels under § 3B1.1(b) based upon the Conclusion that Mr. Fuentes was a manager or supervisor of the drug organization. This adjustment yielded a total offense level of 35 and a sentencing range of 168-210 months. The court sentenced Mr. Fuentes to 189 months imprisonment.

When reviewing the sentencing decisions of the district courts, "we exercise plenary review over legal questions about the meaning of the sentencing guidelines, but apply the deferential clearly erroneous standard to factual determinations underlying their application." United States v. Inigo, 925 F.2d 641, 658 (3d Cir. 1991).

II.

The outcome in this case rests on whether an increase in offense level under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1 for a defendant's aggravating role in the offense requires that the district court find that the defendant exercised control over at least one other person. Section 3B1.1 provides:

Based on the defendant's role in the offense, increase the offense ...


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