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United States of America v. Miguel Angel

August 15, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MIGUEL ANGEL VASQUEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Jacqueline H. Nguyen, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:08-cr-01359-JHN-1

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rymer, Circuit Judge:

OPINION

Argued and Submitted

July 14, 2011-Pasadena, California

Before: Pamela Ann Rymer, Richard C. Tallman, and

Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Rymer

OPINION

Miguel Vasquez was found guilty after a bench trial of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). On appeal, he challenges his conviction and sentence. We have jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.

I

On October 17, 2008, the government sought and obtained a warrant to search the home of Miguel Vasquez and seize evidence of violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1962. The affidavit accompanying the search warrant was common to the search of 121 residences of members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, a motorcycle gang engaged in racketeering activity, including murder, drug trafficking, robberies, hate crimes, and theft of motorcycles.

According to the affidavit, at the top of the Mongols organization was the "Mother Chapter," which directed the activities of the local chapters. Officers, specifically the president, vice-president, secretary/treasurer, and sergeant-at-arms, led the local chapters. The affiant noted that "the Mongols are different from many other criminal enterprises in that they keep extensive written documentation of their rules and activities." These documents, including minutes of meetings and financial records, often reflected criminal activity. Officers typically maintained these documents in a secure location such as their residences.

The affidavit names Vasquez in three places. Vasquez's residence is included in a table of the residences to be searched. The last column of the table, titled "Probable cause section discussed below" lists "records custodian" for Vasquez. The records custodian section states that "this affidavit is made in support of warrants to search for and seize the evidence of violations of [RICO]," and lists various qualifying predicate acts under RICO. It then lists the persons to be searched under this section, including Vasquez, and the items to be seized at their residences, including "[a]ll notes or minutes of meetings conducted by the Mongols."

Finally, Vasquez is named in a list of officers of Mongols chapters. Under the heading "Hemet Chapter" is the entry "Miguel Vasquez - President." The affidavit also notes that the summary of the Mongols officers is based on ...


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