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United States v. Mancilla-Ibarra

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 15, 2020


          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 8:16-cr-00269-SDM-TGW-2

          Before WILLIAM PRYOR and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges, and ROBRENO, [*] District Judge.


         Ramiro Mancilla-Ibarra appeals his conviction and 135-month sentence for conspiring to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii), 846. He argues the district court erred by ruling that probable cause existed to arrest him when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence seized from his arrest. Mancilla-Ibarra also challenges the denial of a two-level reduction in his offense level. See United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2D1.1(b)(17) (Nov. 2016) (incorporating by reference the safety-valve criteria from section 5C1.2(a)). Because the district court did not err in either decision, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Officers arrested Mancilla-Ibarra during a sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration to catch the methamphetamine supplier of dealer-turned-informant Ricky Fann. A confidential informant had confirmed to officers that Fann sold methamphetamine. That informant stated that Fann's source of supply was a man named "Kouranos." He also told officers that he had traveled with Fann to Kouranos's place of business in Georgia where he observed about 30 kilograms of methamphetamine. Officers set up a surveillance camera near Fann's home to monitor him, and the informant later made a controlled buy of methamphetamine from Fann. On May 15, 2016, officers observed a white Kia van with Georgia tags at Fann's house.

         Later that day, officers stopped Fann for running a stop sign. Fann eventually admitted to selling methamphetamine and consented to a search of his home. At his home, Fann voluntarily provided officers over $10, 000 in drug money. An initial search led to the discovery of pre-packaged, ready-for-distribution methamphetamine in Fann's ceiling. Fann told the officers that they could find more methamphetamine hidden in his wall and showed the officers where in the wall it was hidden. The officers recovered about three kilograms of methamphetamine stored in larger cellophane-wrapped bundles from the wall.

         Fann explained that the drugs came from a source in Georgia named "Benny," who delivered drugs to his house in a white van "every four to five days," and Fann admitted that Benny had made a delivery earlier that day. He explained that he communicated with Benny by text message and requested the methamphetamine in "kilo quantities." also identified one of his buyers and later helped officers conduct a successful sting operation against the buyer.

         One week after searching Fann's home, officers asked Fann to text "Benny" to place an order. Fann ordered three kilograms to be "within the norm," although at some point he also told officers that he had never bought more than one kilogram at a time from Benny. One minute after Fann texted Benny saying, "I need three my friend," Benny responded, "Ok buddy," and he later provided Fann an estimated time of arrival for the following day. Benny kept Fann updated on his progress by text message the next day, and an agent, impersonating Fann, informed Benny that the gate at Fann's home was open for Benny. Near the time suggested in the text exchange, the white Kia van with Georgia plates approached Fann's home and pulled through the open gate on the side of the house. Officers approached the van and arrested the driver, Mancilla-Ibarra, without a warrant.

         Within about five minutes of the arrest, officers brought a drug sniffing dog to approach the van. The dog alerted, and a search of the vehicle uncovered three kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in the rear speaker of the passenger door. Officers also observed a cell phone in the car, and when they called "Benny" from Fann's phone, the cell phone from Mancilla-Ibarra's car rang with Fann's number appearing on the screen. Mancilla-Ibarra admitted, after being advised of his rights, see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), that he used the white van to deliver three kilograms of methamphetamine to Fann, that he received the methamphetamine from an unidentified source of supply, and that he had previously delivered methamphetamine to Fann's residence.

         A grand jury indicted Mancilla-Ibarra on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii) and 846, and one count of possessing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, id. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii). Mancilla-Ibarra moved to suppress the evidence seized as the fruit of an unlawful arrest. He argued that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him and attacked Fann's reliability as an informant. The district court ordered an evidentiary hearing and referred the matter to a magistrate judge.

         The government offered the testimony of a detective involved in the investigation to support Fann's credibility. The detective testified that Fann consented to a search of his home; provided the officers with his drug money; told the officers where to find additional drugs in his home; identified his supplier as from Georgia, which was consistent with the original informant's account and the surveillance video of the white van with Georgia tags; helped officers set up a successful sting with one of his customers; and provided the phone number for his supplier and requested the supplier provide more methamphetamine. And the detective testified that the white van with Georgia tags driven by Mancilla-Ibarra appeared around the appointed time in response to Fann's request. The government also argued that, even if the information from Fann did not establish probable cause to arrest Mancilla-Ibarra, the drug dog's alert independently created probable cause to search the van.

         The magistrate judge recommended that the district court deny Mancilla-Ibarra's motion to suppress because probable cause existed at the time of the arrest. The magistrate judge made no recommendation on the dog sniff issue. Mancilla-Ibarra objected to the report and recommendation, but the district court overruled the objections, adopted the report and recommendation, and denied the motion. At a bench trial, the district court found Mancilla-Ibarra guilty of both counts of the indictment.

         The presentence investigation report stated that officers uncovered three kilograms of methamphetamine at Fann's home and that Mancilla-Ibarra delivered a kilogram of methamphetamine to Fann's home on May 15. The report also stated that Mancilla-Ibarra admitted to delivering methamphetamine to Fann only twice, once on May 15 and once on the day of his arrest. Although the report flagged the possibility of a two-level reduction based on Mancilla-Ibarra's satisfaction of the five safety-valve criteria, U.S.S.G §§ 2D1.1(b)(17), 5C1.2(a), it did not recommend the reduction because the government asserted that Mancilla-Ibarra failed to satisfy the fifth criteria by not being "forthcoming and complete in his statements about the conspiracy." The report calculated Mancilla-Ibarra's total offense level as 36, with a criminal history category of I. His recommended guidelines range was 188 to 235 months of imprisonment, and his statutory maximum sentence was life imprisonment.

         At his sentencing hearing, Mancilla-Ibarra objected to the refusal to recommend a two-level reduction because he satisfied all of the safety-valve criteria, including the truthful disclosure requirement. U.S.S.G §§ 2D1.1(b)(17), 5C1.2(a). He asserted that he had answered all questions, provided details about the persons he knew to be involved in the drug trafficking, and disclosed the identity of a third person's involvement just before the hearing even though the government did not previously ask about this person. The government responded that Mancilla-Ibarra did not fully cooperate because he refused to provide complete ...

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