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United States v. Karimi

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 24, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SHABAB KARIMI (3), Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION FOLLOWING BENCH TRIAL

          MARILYN L. HUFF, District Judge

         The Government brought an information against Defendant Shabab Karimi for a violation of Title 21, U.S.C. Sections 846 and 841 (a)(1) and (h)(4) for Conspiracy to Manufacture and Possess with Intent to Distribute Anabolic Steroids. (Doc. No. 30.) Karimi waived his constitutional right to a jury trial and agreed to have the case tried to the Court. (Doc. No. 81.) The case proceeded to a bench trial beginning on June 21, 2016. Lindsey Forrester Archer and Michael Wheat appeared for the Government. John Lanahan appeared for the Defendant Karimi.

         In order for the Government to prove its case against the Defendant, the Government must prove by proof beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements of a conspiracy:

1. Beginning on a date unknown and continuing up to September 14, 2015, there was an agreement between two or more persons to manufacture anabolic steroids and to possess with intent to distribute anabolic steroids; and
2. Karimi became a member of the conspiracy knowing of its object and intending to help accomplish that object.

         The legal standards for a conspiracy are well-settled. A conspiracy is a kind of criminal partnership - an agreement of two or more persons to commit one or more crimes. United States v. Abushi, 682 F.2d 1289, 1293 (9th Cir. 1982). The crime of conspiracy is the agreement to do something unlawful; it does not matter whether the crime agreed upon was committed. United States v. Iribe, 564 F.3d 1155, 1161 (9th Cir. 2009). A defendant charged in a conspiracy need not have knowledge of all the purposes or participants in the conspiracy to belong to a criminal conspiracy. United States v. Escalante, 637 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir. 1980); United States v. Kearney, 560 F.2d 1358, 1362 (9th Cir. 1977).

         In United States v. Perry, 550 F.2d 524, 533 (9th Cir. 1997), the Ninth Circuit held that the government need not "prove that all of the defendants met together at the same time and ratified the illegal scheme." Additionally, a defendant's participation in a conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstantial evidence. United States v. Batimana, 623 F.2d 1366, 1368 (9th Cir. 1980). Indeed, "[t]he connection of the defendant to a conspiracy need only be slight, if there is sufficient evidence to establish that connection beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. It is not necessary that the conspirators made a formal agreement or that they agreed on every detail of the conspiracy. United States. v. Romero, 282 F.3d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 2002); United States v. Melvin, 91 F.3d 1218, 1224 (9th Cir. 1996). But it is not enough that they simply met, discussed matters of common interest, or acted in similar ways or perhaps helped one another. Melvin, 91 F.3d at 1224. There must be an agreement to commit at least one of the crimes alleged as an object or purpose of the conspiracy. United States v. Montgomery, 384 F.3d 1050, 1062 (9th Cir. 2004).

         For a drug conspiracy, the government is not required to prove the commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. United States v. Shabani, 513 U.S. 10, 15 (1994). Moreover, a defendant's possession of a substantial quantity of a controlled substance may show that the defendant knowingly possessed the substance. United States v. Barbosa, 906 F.2d 1366, 1368 (9th Cir. 1990). A conspiracy to commit a crime "does not require completion of the intended underlying offense." Iribe, 564 F.3d at 1161. With the legal standards in mind, the Court turns to the evidence presented at the trial.

         The Government first called a co-defendant, Robert Walters, to testify about the conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute anabolic steroids. Walters testified that he arranged for the importation of steroids. He admitted to a prior felony in Pennsylvania related to steroids. His supervision was transferred to San Diego, and he spent six months in a halfway house. During Walters' time in the halfway house, he met his co-conspirator Henry, a correctional officer at the halfway house. Henry knew his prior record, and asked if Walters would get involved with steroids for Henry. Walters continued to use his contact in Israel to get the steroid product. Once he got the product, Walters mailed packages of steroids for co-conspirator Henry. Henry introduced him to Karimi, an individual he met at another halfway house. Henry knew that Karimi had many contacts in the bodybuilding field. Henry and Walters discussed with Karimi that they had steroids available and asked if Karimi was interested in helping them sell the steroids.

         Walters had the product mailed to Henry's P.O. box in San Ysidro from his Israeli source who used a company name of Skyrocks. Once the raw materials were delivered to the P.O. box in San Ysidro, Walters got the product ready to distribute. The powders had to be put into an oil and had to be heated to dissolve the powder. Walters used a storage unit in National City that Henry had arranged for through an individual named Apodaca. Walters would use a hotel room to get the product ready to market or sometimes they would go to Karimi's house and use his house to get the product ready to market. Karimi had his own customers and Walters' overseas contact had his own customers. Walters did not profit from the customers of his overseas contact. But he would profit from Karimi's sales to his customers.

         Walters' overseas contact taught him how to manufacture the steroids. Walters took the powder, used a pyrex cup, heated it up, mixed the powder with oil, and filtered the liquid steroid into the vials. Henry paid for the equipment. Walters used the equipment at Karimi's house, but more often at Walters' hotel. He also had some tabs that were taken orally. Karimi told Walters that Karimi was distributing the product to his customers. Walters was not present, but Karimi let him know what his customers needed. Whatever Karimi sold, Karimi and Walters split the proceeds. Karimi was selling about $1000 of product a week mostly in the $25 to $65 range. After he prepared the steroids for distribution, he mailed the product to the overseas customers or dropped them off at Karimi's house. Walters used different post offices. One of them was near Karimi's Scott Street address. Karimi accompanied him to the post office on occasion.

         On cross-examination, Walters testified that he had a prior conviction for a felony involving steroids. His supervision was transferred to San Diego. Ultimately, the judge revoked his probation, and he served 180 days at a halfway house. While there, he met his co-conspirator Henry in San Diego. After his arrest in this case, Walters pled guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement with the Government. As a result of his plea in this case, he may receive a reduced sentence for assisting the Government.

         Walters met Henry, a case manager at the halfway house who had access to Walter's file. Henry approached him within the first month or two and brought up Karimi's name because Henry met Karimi at another halfway house. When Walters got out of the halfway house, Henry stayed in contact with Walters and Karimi. Walters was to contact his overseas contact, set it up and go from there. Henry said that he had people that would distribute the product for him.

         Walters was a previous bodybuilder and was familiar with steroid use. A cycle is a 10 to 16 week combination of steroids and ancillaries. Ancillaries limit the effects of the steroids. The ...


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