United States v. Araceli Garcia

Case: 17-40175 Document: 00514358115 Page: 1 Date Filed: 02/22/2018 IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT No. 17-40175 United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit FILED UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, February 22, 2018 Lyle W. Cayce Plaintiff - Appellee Clerk v. ARACELI GARCIA, Defendant - Appellant Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas Before REAVLEY, SMITH, and OWEN, Circuit Judges. REAVLEY, Circuit Judge: A jury convicted Araceli Garcia of bringing unlawful aliens into the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, a violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). Garcia appeals her conviction, arguing only that the Government failed to prove that she acted with the requisite financial purpose. We conclude, however, that the totality of the evidence allowed the jury to reasonably infer such a purpose. Garcia’s conviction is affirmed. I. BACKGROUND On May 13, 2016, a Cadillac Escalade travelled from Mexico and arrived at the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge, which serves as a port of entry into the United Case: 17-40175 Document: 00514358115 Page: 2 Date Filed: 02/22/2018 No. 17-40175 States by way of Laredo, Texas. Araceli Garcia (the owner of the vehicle) sat in the passenger’s seat, her 17-year-old daughter was the driver, and five or six other children occupied the vehicle’s remaining seats. United States Customs and Border Protection Officer Andrew Lewinski approached the vehicle, and Garcia informed him that the vehicle was overheating. Yet, Lewinski observed that the vehicle’s air conditioning was running full blast, no warning lights appeared on the dash, and none of the vehicle’s occupants were sweating. As for the group’s itinerary, Garcia explained that her daughter and grandchildren drove from Houston toward Monterrey to visit family, but upon discovering that the Monterrey relatives were not home, the family turned around to stay with other relatives in Laredo. This explanation was dubious, too, given the vehicle’s lack of luggage. Lewinski then collected identification documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.) from each person in the vehicle, and he began to read aloud the names to match the documents to the passengers. Two of the child passengers responded to names found on a pair of Texas birth certificates: Stephanie Soto and Adrian Soto. But a brief investigation called into question the validity of those identities; neither child spoke English, and “Stephanie” misspelled the name on her purported birth certificate. Ultimately, officers discovered that “Stephanie” was in reality D.I.P.M. and “Adrian” was M.G.M.—both Mexican siblings and both without prior permission to come into the United States. A grand jury indicted Garcia on two counts of bringing unlawful aliens into the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). At trial, several officers explained the factual circumstances of the offense. And, importantly, D.I.P.M. herself shed further light on the smuggling endeavor. D.I.P.M. confirmed that arrangements were in place to smuggle her and her brother into the United States and that Garcia was the person ...

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