April 4, 2018
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 10 CR
1068 - Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
Maldonado and Francisco Masias (together, "the
Defendants") were charged with conspiring to distribute
cocaine, amongst six other counts irrelevant to this appeal.
During trial, the district court gave a multiple conspiracies
jury instruction and refused to give a "meeting of the
minds" instruction proposed by Masias. The jury
convicted the Defendants on all counts, and they now appeal.
They contend the government lacked sufficient evidence to
prove conspiracy between them and Edwin Rodriguez, a
cooperating defendant, and Masias contends separately that
the district court erred by refusing to give a "meeting
of the minds" jury instruction.
December 16, 2010, a grand jury returned a seven-count
indictment charging the Defendants with conspiracy to possess
more than five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846; possession with intent to distribute
cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); using
the telephone to facilitate a narcotics offense, in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b); and unlawful possession of
firearms by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
trial, Rodriguez testified that beginning in spring 2009, he
and Maldonado spent a considerable amount of time together.
Maldonado taught him how to "rerock" cocaine, a
process for diluting cocaine with additives to make it into a
larger quantity for resale. This process allows a seller to
turn a single kilogram of cocaine into as many as three
kilograms. The two of them rerocked cocaine together several
times with Maldonado fronting a portion of the drugs to
Rodriguez for resale. (Fronting occurs when a seller supplies
cocaine to a buyer on credit with an understanding the buyer
will pay for the cocaine from further sales.) Maldonado
stored cocaine and firearms at Rodriguez's residence, and
on several occasions, Rodriguez accompanied Maldonado while
he delivered cocaine to his customers. Rodriguez also
testified that from late 2009 through early 2010, Masias was
a supplier of cocaine to Maldonado, and often fronted this
government presented additional evidence of specific drug
deals involving the Defendants, largely through surveillance
and intercepted phone calls.
January 11, 2010, the Defendants coordinated a drug deal with
Teodoro Gorostieta, Masias' cousin and supplier.
Gorostieta delivered the cocaine to Maldonado while Masias
negotiated and coordinated the deal. After this transaction,
the Defendants agreed to check the quality of the cocaine
together and Maldonado agreed to buy a box of cocaine cutting
agent for Masias.
January 13 and 14, 2010, Masias borrowed Maldonado's
Cadillac, which had a "trap" compartment for drugs
and drug proceeds, to deliver cocaine to a customer. During
this time- frame, Masias purchased an Audi for half a
kilogram of cocaine. After the exchange, Masias phoned
Maldonado to tell him about the Audi and to ask his advice as
to whether he made a good exchange. Despite having just
purchased the Audi, Masias continued to use the Cadillac and
allowed Maldonado to use his Lexus or Audi.
January 14, 2010, the Defendants coordinated the delivery of
two kilograms of cocaine from Gorostieta to a customer. The
Defendants argued over how they would divide their cut of the
deal. During this argument, Masias told Maldonado to "be
a good middleman … That way we don't have no
incidents." Before the deal was complete, Maldonado
called Rodriguez and suggested he rob Gorostieta of the money
from the two kilograms and an additional kilogram of cocaine
the supplier had in his car. However, after intercepting
these calls, agents conducted a traffic stop of Gorostieta
and seized the cocaine and cash to prevent Maldonado and
Rodriguez from committing the robbery. Not knowing about the
traffic stop and seizure, Maldonado and Rodriguez made
several calls about surveilling the supplier. Rodriguez
waited several hours in his car on the street where Maldonado
believed Gorostieta lived, until Masias informed him of the
January 27, 2010, Maldonado sent Rodriguez to Masias'
residence to pick up nine ounces of fronted cocaine. Masias
gave Rodriguez a full kilogram that Maldonado and Rodriguez
split for further distribution.
February 1, 2010, Masias informed Maldonado of 16 firearms he
bought. Maldonado agreed to help sell them and drove to
Masias' to pick them up. Upon arrival, Masias placed a
large, weighted bag in Maldonado's car. Maldonado drove
to Rodriguez's house and took the bag into his house.
Rodriguez was subsequently seen placing a rifle bag in a
U-Haul. Based on agents' suspicion from surveillance of
Rodriguez placing what appeared to be the guns from Maldonado
into the U- ...