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United States v. Tringali

December 18, 1995

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOSEPH TRINGALI AND RAMON HERNANDEZ, A/K/A ALFREDO,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 94 CR 130--Suzanne B. Conlon, Judge.

Before CUMMINGS, MANION, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

MANION, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED SEPTEMBER 21, 1995

DECIDED DECEMBER 18, 1995

A federal grand jury indicted Joseph Tringali and Ramon Hernandez (a/k/a "Alfredo") for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute ten kilograms of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute two kilograms of cocaine. Tringali pleaded guilty to the possession count and was sentenced to 140 months imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Hernandez pleaded not guilty, but following a jury trial he was convicted on both counts and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of twenty years imprisonment. Tringali appeals his sentence and Hernandez appeals his conviction and sentence. We affirm.

I. Background

In December of 1993, "Mr. Alex," *fn1 a native of Colombia, called the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") office in Chicago to express his support for the DEA's anti-drug operations in Colombia, especially its role in the recent capture and death of Pablo Escobar, a notorious Colombian drug kingpin. The DEA saw an opportunity to infiltrate drug traffickers and recruited Alex to work as a cooperating individual.

In accordance with his agreement to provide the DEA with information, Alex named three people he suspected of trafficking in narcotics, Fernando Trujillo, Joseph Tringali and Ramon Hernandez. Alex had originally met Trujillo in 1991. During 1991 and 1992 Alex attended several parties with Trujillo, where he met Joseph Tringali and Ramon Hernandez. At one such party, Alex witnessed an argument between Trujillo and two other people regarding a drug debt. After witnessing this argument, Alex's contact with Trujillo waned.

Upon becoming a cooperating individual with the DEA, Alex sought to re-establish his connection with Trujillo. In late December of 1993, Alex attempted to contact Trujillo by using the pager number Trujillo had given him in 1991. Alex's attempts to locate Trujillo were unsuccessful, so he called a mutual acquaintance for suggestions and was informed that Trujillo was in jail, but that "Alfredo" might be able to help him. Alex eventually contacted "Alfredo." Alex testified that he remembered "Alfredo" to be the man named Ramon Hernandez whom he had met earlier through Trujillo.

When Alex contacted Hernandez, he told Hernandez that some foreign friends in Chicago were interested in purchasing cocaine. Hernandez indicated that he would look into the possibility of supplying cocaine. Approximately one week later, Hernandez informed Alex that he had conferred with his suppliers and, that if the deal could be done in California, the price per kilogram of cocaine would be $15,000-$16,000, but, that if done in Chicago, the price would jump to $22,000-$23,000 per kilogram.

Over the next month, Alex and Hernandez negotiated the details of the drug deal. They agreed on an amount of ten kilograms, with delivery to take place in Chicago. They also agreed that Joe Tringali would deliver the drugs to Alex. But Hernandez later restructured the sale, stating that Tringali would start with a delivery of two kilograms of cocaine and if the transaction was successful, the remaining eight kilograms would follow. A few days after that conversation, Hernandez told Alex that Tringali was in Chicago "ready to make the cocaine business." Tringali also called Alex, stating that he was in Des Plaines, Illinois with the cocaine. During his conversation with Tringali, Alex expressed disappointment that he would not receive the entire ten kilograms of cocaine at one time. Tringali responded that they would complete the two kilogram transaction and that Alex would get the eight additional kilograms of cocaine "very soon."

The next day Tringali and Alex met in a parking lot to discuss the logistics of the cocaine transaction, and then proceeded to a motel, where Tringali opened a suitcase and showed Alex two kilograms of cocaine. Alex left the motel ostensibly to retrieve the "buy money" for the cocaine. The DEA then arrested Tringali in the motel room. During the arrest, DEA agents found in Tringali's room a business card with Hernandez's beeper number. Further investigation revealed that Tringali had placed two calls from the Des Plaines motel room to a house located at 545 11th Street, Imperial Beach, California. Hernandez was later arrested fleeing from this Imperial Beach home.

Based on these facts, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Tringali and Alfredo (later identified as Hernandez) with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute ten kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. sec. 846, and possession with intent to distribute two kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. sec. 841 (a)(1). Under a plea agreement, the government dropped the conspiracy count, and Tringali pleaded guilty to the possession count. Tringali was sentenced to 140 months in prison and five years supervised release. Tringali appeals his sentence.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty. Following a three-day jury trial, he was convicted on both counts and sentenced to a statutory mandatory minimum of twenty years in prison and five years of supervised ...


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