USA v. Angelica Tupper
Per Curiam OPINION: Tupper's sentence is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Ralph B. Guy , Jr., Circuit Judge; Alice M. Batchelder, Circuit Judge and Deborah L. Cook, Circuit Judge.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 16a0172n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
ANGELICA I. TUPPER,
Mar 25, 2016
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF
BEFORE: GUY, BATCHELDER, and COOK, Circuit Judges.
Angelica I. Tupper appeals her 210-month sentence for
methamphetamine offenses. We affirm.
Tupper pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or
more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii) and 846, and
possession with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of methamphetamine,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii). In objections to the presentence report, the
government asserted in relevant part that Tupper should receive a four-level enhancement for her
aggravating role as an organizer or leader pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a). The probation office
agreed with the government and revised the presentence report to include the enhancement. At
sentencing, after hearing testimony from FBI Special Agent Craig Eid, the lead investigator, and
recordings of telephone conversations, the district court overruled Tupper’s objection to the
United States v. Tupper
The district court calculated a guidelines range of 210 to 262 months of
imprisonment based on a total offense level of 37 and a criminal history category of I and, after
considering the sentencing factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), sentenced Tupper at the bottom of
that range to 210 months of imprisonment.
On appeal, Tupper contends that the district court erred in imposing the four-level
aggravating role enhancement.
U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a) calls for a four-level increase in a
defendant’s offense level “[i]f the defendant was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that
involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive.” We review the district court’s
factual findings underlying the enhancement for clear error and defer to the district court’s legal
conclusion that a person was an organizer or leader under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a). United States v.
Washington, 715 F.3d 975, 982-83 (6th Cir. 2013).
In determining whether the enhancement applies, courts consider “the exercise of
decision making authority, the nature of participation in the commission of the offense, the
recruitment of accomplices, the claimed right to a larger share of the fruits of the crime, the
degree of participation in planning or organizing the offense, the nature and scope of the illegal
activity, and the degree of control and authority exercised over others.” U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1,
comment. (n.4). It is not necessary for a defendant to satisfy each of these factors for the
enhancement to apply. See United States v. Gates, 461 F.3d 703, 709 (6th Cir. 2006).
Tupper, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, transported several
methamphetamine to Louisville, Kentucky. Special Agent Eid testified as background that the
FBI and the Louisville Metro Police Department were investigating a drug trafficking
organization and determined that John White was the organization’s main methamphetamine
supplier. After his arrest, White cooperated and told law enforcement about his dealings with
United States v. Tupper
Tupper, one of his methamphetamine suppliers. White met Tupper in November 2012 when he
ordered three pounds of methamphetamine and one kilogram of cocaine from someone known as
“Junior.” Tupper delivered the drugs to White’s shop in Louisville. From that point on, White
dealt directly with Tupper, who supplied him with methamphetamine on multiple occasions over
the next year.
On one occasion in early July 2013, Tupper delivered three pounds of methamphetamine
to White in exchange for $20,000 in cash. Later that day, law enforcement stopped the vehicle in
which Tupper and her brother, Nevarez Estrada Gildardo, were travelling. After a K-9 unit
alerted to the presence of drugs, law enforcement searched the vehicle and discovered $20,000 in
cash in a bag with coffee grounds and a ledger containing deposits, withdrawals, and expenses
along with a recipe for converting methamphetamine from liquid to solid form.
In cooperating with law enforcement, White recorded telephone conversations with
Tupper about an upcoming delivery. During those conversations, Tupper repeatedly assured
White that she could arrange to supply the quantity of methamphetamine that he wanted, but was
less optimistic that she could deliver cocaine. Tupper rejected White’s suggestion that the
methamphetamine be delivered all at once and explained that the drugs would be delivered in
batches, stating that, “if something happens, it’s better a little bit than all of it . . . . It’s a
Tupper advised White that her “friend” would be bringing the
methamphetamine and told him, “I want her to know you because she’s going to be seeing a lot
of you.” Tupper expressed reluctance about being in the same vehicle as the methamphetamine,
telling White, “I won’t drive with it either. I’m paying her to do that . . . .”
Tupper’s “friend” turned out to be Angela Gunter of Indianapolis, Indiana, whom Tupper
met at the pub where Gunter worked. Gunter collected cash from people on Tupper’s behalf,
United States v. Tupper
receiving payments ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 from twelve to fifteen different people and
depositing them into a bank account for Tupper.
The methamphetamine delivery that was the subject of the recorded telephone
conversations was to take place in early December 2013. Two packages were shipped from
California to an address in Indianapolis; Tupper provided White with the tracking number for
one of those packages. Law enforcement conducted surveillance on the Indianapolis address and
saw Deanna Walker, Gunter’s friend, pick up the tracked package. Gunter, Walker, and an
unidentified female later drove to the Louisville hotel where Tupper was staying and left after a
few minutes. Law enforcement then stopped the vehicle and, after Gunter consented to a search,
found two packages wrapped like presents containing six pounds of methamphetamine. Gunter
told law enforcement that she was to be paid $2,000 for delivering the packages for Tupper.
The evidence presented by the government supports the district court’s conclusion that
Tupper was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity involving five or more participants
under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a). The criminal activity involved, at a minimum, Tupper, White,
“Junior,” Gildardo, Gunter, and Walker. Tupper arranged the shipment and delivery of large
amounts of methamphetamine from across the country on multiple occasions, exercised decision
making authority over how the methamphetamine would be delivered, and recruited Gunter to
insulate herself from criminal exposure. See United States v. Schultz, 14 F.3d 1093, 1099 (6th
Cir. 1994) (“Organizing and coordinating an interstate . . . scheme of distribution that brings
contraband into a community for distribution on a continuing basis should be sufficient to qualify
a single individual as an ‘organizer’ of criminal activity.”). Tupper argues that recruitment of
one person to act as a courier is insufficient to apply the four-level enhancement under U.S.S.G.
Tupper’s argument ignores her other organizational activities.
United States v. Tupper
defendant need lead only one other participant to qualify for the enhancement. See U.S.S.G.
§ 3B1.1, comment. (n.2); Washington, 715 F.3d at 983. Tupper also contends that the district
court failed to consider the likelihood that there were people “upstream” who were higher in the
drug trafficking organization. But “[t]here can, of course, be more than one person who qualifies
as a leader or organizer of a criminal association or conspiracy.” U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1, comment.
(n.4); see Washington, 715 F.3d at 984. We defer to the district court’s conclusion that Tupper
was an organizer or leader of this conspiracy.
Accordingly, we AFFIRM Tupper’s sentence.
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