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United States v. Salas

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 14, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PEDRO SALAS, Defendant

For Pedro Salas, Defendant: Beau B. Brindley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Joshua Jack Jones, Law Offices of Beau B. Brindley, Chicago, IL USA; Kevin P. Bolger; Michael James Thompson, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Offices of Beau B. Brindley, Chicago, IL USA; Timothy Joseph Witczak, Law Office Of Beau B. Brindley, Chicago, IL USA.

For Jesus Fuentes, Defendant: Andrea Elizabeth Gambino, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Andrea E. Gambino, Chicago, IL USA; Daniel Eli Radakovich, Attorney at Law, Chicago, IL USA.

For Sergio Baltazar-Lujano, Defendant: James A. Graham, Robert C. Lucenti; Law Offices of James A. Graham, LEAD ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL USA.

For Gerardo Baltazar-Lujano, Defendant: Damon Matthew Cheronis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Damon M. Cheronis, Chicago, IL USA; Standish E. Willis.

For USA, Plaintiff: Matthew Francis Madden, LEAD ATTORNEY, Meghan Morrissey Stack, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL USA; Probation Department; Anthony P Garcia, U.S. Attorney's Office, Chicago, IL USA.

Page 903

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Rubén Castillo, Chief United States District Judge.

On August 16, 2012, Pedro Salas was indicted by a Grand Jury. (R. 54, Indictment.) The indictment alleged that Salas directed a heroin and cocaine trafficking organization that obtained large quantities of the drugs and distributed them to various smaller narcotics distributors. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 2-4.) Salas was charged along with four co-defendants: Jesus Fuentes, Sergio Baltazar-Lujano (" Sergio" ), Gerardo Baltazar-Lujano (" Gerardo" ), and Ester Carrera. Each of his co-defendants pleaded guilty to various counts of the ten-count indictment. Sergio pleaded guilty on June 24, 2013; Gerardo pleaded guilty on July 15, 2013; Carrera pleaded guilty on July 16, 2013; and Fuentes pleaded guilty on July 19, 2013.

The indictment charged Salas with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 1000 or more grams of heroin and 5 or more kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count One); distribution of 1000 or more grams of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Counts Two and Four); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Six); and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k) (Count Eight). ( Id. ) On July 17, 2013, Salas entered a guilty plea as to Counts One, Two, and Four. (R. 211, Min. Entry; R. 212, Plea Decl.) He pleaded not guilty to Counts Six and Eight. (R. 212, Plea Decl.)

On July 31, 2013, Salas voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded to a bench trial, which was held on August 5, 2013. (R. 221, Min. Entry.) Having reviewed all of the evidence, its own trial notes, and the testimony of the witnesses to determine the credibility of each witness, the Court concludes that there was not enough evidence to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Salas knowingly possessed the firearms that form the basis of Counts Six and Eight. The Court enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(c).

FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court concludes that the Government established by both direct and circumstantial evidence, as well as reasonable inferences therefrom, the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. To the extent,

Page 904

if any, that findings of fact, as stated, may be considered conclusions of law, they shall be deemed conclusions of law. Similarly, to the extent that matters expressed as conclusions of law may be considered findings of fact, they shall also be deemed findings of fact.

1. Beginning no later than fall 2011, and continuing until his arrest on May 21, 2012, Salas was engaged in the business of trafficking narcotics. (R. 212, Plea Decl. ¶ 6.) After the heroin and cocaine Salas would distribute were transported to the Chicago area, the narcotics were stored at various stash locations, including an apartment on West Roscoe Street in Chicago where co-defendant Gerardo lived. ( Id. ) Salas helped to coordinate the delivery of heroin and cocaine to, and the receipt of payments from, co-conspirators, including co-defendants Fuentes and Carrera. ( Id. ) The cash proceeds from the narcotics sales were stored at various stash locations, including Unit 107 at 1801 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where Sergio lived. ( Id. )

2. Salas was the sole leaseholder of Unit 107, a two-bedroom condominium unit. (Gov't Ex. Lease.) Salas stayed at Unit 107 at least occasionally. When he stayed, he used the master bedroom, which did not lock from the outside. (R. 216, Stipulation 7; Tr. at 97.) Sergio inhabited the second bedroom of Unit 107. (R. 216, Stipulation 7.)

3. Between January 25, 2012, and May 21, 2012, law enforcement officers who were surveilling 1801 South Michigan observed Salas enter or exit the building on six occasions. (R. 216, Stipulation 9.) Officers observed Salas or his vehicle in the proximity of 1801 South Michigan on an additional four occasions during those four months. ( Id. ) Salas was never observed carrying any weapons. (Tr. at 100.)

4. In their surveillance of 1801 South Michigan, agents could not observe the door to Unit 107; they were only able to observe the entrances and exits to the building. (R. 217, Stipulation 9.) Agents did not conduct surveillance at night, and there was no evidence ...


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