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United States v. Mendez

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MAURICIO MENDEZ (1), Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255

          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Mauricio Mendez's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 526). The Government has filed a response and opposition to Defendant's motion and Defendant has filed a reply, supplemental briefing, and a supplemental notice. Having considered these submissions, the applicable legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 10, 2010, Defendant pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to two counts of a superseding information. Count 1 of the superseding information charged a conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Count 2 charged Defendant with brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). (ECF No. 288.)

         The plea agreement set forth the elements of the Count 1 offense, the RICO conspiracy, as:

1. The defendant was employed by or associated with an enterprise, that is, a group of individuals associated in fact, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4);
2. The enterprise engaged in or its activities in some way affected interstate commerce between one state and another state, or between a state of the United States and a foreign country; [and]
3. The defendant knowingly agreed with at least one other person to conduct or participate in the conduct of the enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, as that term is defined in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961(1) and (5). That is, the defendant agreed to participate in the enterprise with the knowledge and intent that a least one member of the RICO conspiracy (which could be the defendant himself) would commit at least two racketeering acts described above in Section I of this agreement.

Plea Agreement, ECF No. 292 at 3.

         The elements of Count 2, set forth under the heading "Use of Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, " were: "1) the defendant committed a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime; and 2) the defendant knowingly brandished a firearm during and in relation to one of those crimes." Id. Regarding the factual basis for the Count 2 offense, the Plea Agreement set forth the following:

         Among the acts that defendant committed as evidence of the conspiracy..., were:

a. On August 30, 2008, in San Diego, Mendez, along with other coconspirators, went to a residence in Coronado to collect a drug debt. The conspirators, including Mendez, entered the home and unlawfully restrained the occupants. Mendez brandished a firearm to prevent the occupants from fleeing. Mendez threatened the occupants of the home with injury or death if they did not pay $54, 000. Mendez searched the house for valuables while others guarded the occupants downstairs. Mendez and his co-conspirators, through intimidation and threats of violence, prevented the occupants from fleeing or contacting law enforcement. Eventually, Mendez and his co-conspirators left the residence. When they left, they unlawfully took (1) two Dodge trucks, (2) a Land Rover, (3) a Mercedes Benz, (4) approximately $2, 000 in cash, (5) two laptop computers, (6) several Movado watches and (7) miscellaneous jewelry. All of these items were taken without permission by force or threats or force.
b. Mendez forced an individual to leave the residence.
c. Mendez knowingly brandished a firearm during the commission of the ...

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