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United States v. Ramirez-Amaya

decided: March 2, 1987.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
RAFAEL RAMIREZ-AMAYA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, John M. Cannella, Judge, convicting defendant of narcotics offenses, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 841, 846, 952, 960, 963. Affirmed.

Author: Kearse

Before: LUMBARD, KEARSE, and MINER, Circuit Judges.

KEARSE, Circuit Judge :

Defendant Rafael Ramirez-Amaya ("Ramirez") appeals from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, following a jury trial before John M. Cannella, Judge, convicting him on one count of importing 510 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 952, and 960 (1982); one count of attempting to possess cocaine with the intent of distributing it, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 841, and 846 (1982); and two counts of conspiring to commit those acts, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 963, 846 (1982). He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 20 years' imprisonment on each count, to be followed by a lifetime special parole term, fined $250,000 on each count, for a total fine of $1,000,000 and assessed the costs of prosecution. On appeal, Ramirez challenges venue, evidentiary rulings, and his sentence. Finding no merit in any of his contentions, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

I. BACKGROUND

Briefly, the evidence at trial, taken in the light most favorable to the government, established that one Tomas De Los Rios entered into negotiations with an undercover agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") to conduct a multimillion dollar money laundering scheme for Colombian cocaine traffickers. During these negotiations, De Los Rios also indicated that his associates were seeking to smuggle large quantities of cocaine into the United States. In January 1986, De Los Rios discussed the possibility of importing cocaine with Ramirez, who had recently been involved in an unsuccessful attempt to import 167 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from Costa Rica.

Several weeks later, Ramirez informed De Los Rios that an unidentified Colombian drug dealer had offered to pay $1 million to have 500 kilograms of cocaine flown from Colombia to the United States, and De Los Rios went to Bogota, Colombia, to discuss this proposition with Ramirez. The coconspirators agreed to ship the cocaine to the United States on an airplane to be supplied by the FBI agent. The plane was to be flown from Colombia, with a refueling stop in the Caribbean Islands, to Westchester County Airport in New York; the cocaine would then be loaded by the agent into three rental cars to be parked at various locations in New York City. The agent would deliver the car keys to De Los Rios, who would deliver the cocaine to his Colombian associates and receive in return the $1 million transportation fee.

In March 1986, after these details were agreed upon, 510 kilograms of cocaine were loaded into an airplane in Colombia. This plane was flown, by pilots hired by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for this investigation, to Tampa, Florida, where the cocaine was transferred to an FBI plane which was flown to LaGuardia Airport in New York. From LaGuardia, the cocaine was transported to FBI offices in Manhattan and secured.

On the following day, Ramirez, De Los Rios, and others flew to New York where they had several meetings to make the final arrangements for the exchange of money and cocaine. They were arrested and the present indictment and trial followed. Ramirez was convicted and sentenced as indicated above.

II. DISCUSSION

On appeal, Ramirez makes a number of challenges to his conviction on the grounds that venue was improper, that certain of the trial court's evidentiary rulings were erroneous, and that the court erred in not limiting the total of his fines to $500,000 and in failing to consider appropriate factors in imposing sentence. We find all of Ramirez's arguments to be without merit; only the venue and aggregation-of-fines contentions warrant discussion.

A. Venue

We reject Ramirez's contention that venue was improperly laid in the Southern District on the conspiracy to import and importation counts. Venue is proper in any district in which any part of the crime was committed. See 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a) (1982 & Supp. III 1985); United States v. Potamitis, 739 F.2d 784, 791 (2d Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 918, 83 L. Ed. 2d 232, 105 S. Ct. 297 (1985); United States v. Panebianco, 543 F.2d 447, 455 (2d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1103, 97 S. Ct. 1128, 51 L. Ed. 2d 553 (1977). Thus, as to a charge of importation, venue may properly be laid "in any district from, through, or into which . . . such imported object . . . moves." 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a); see United States v. Sandini, 803 F.2d 123, 128 (3d Cir. 1986); United States v. Netz, 758 F.2d 1308, 1312 (8th Cir. 1985) (per curiam). As to a charge of conspiracy, venue may properly be laid in the district in which the conspiratorial agreement was formed or in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed by any of the coconspirators. See United States v. Moeckly, 769 F.2d 453, 460-61 (8th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1104, 106 S. Ct. 1947, 90 L. Ed. 2d 357 (1986).

The evidence was sufficient to show that venue in the present case was properly laid in the Southern District as to both the conspiracy to import and importation counts. The coconspirators met in Manhattan, which is within the Southern District, in order to make final arrangements for the collection of the cocaine after its transport to New York. These meetings were overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to ...


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