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United States v. Buenrostro

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 26, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GUSTAVO BUENROSTRO and AMBROSIO MEDRANO, Defendants-Appellants

Argued: September 8, 2014.

Page 865

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12 CR 00487 -- John J. Tharp, Jr., Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (14-1278): Christopher J. Stetler, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Gustavo Buenrostro, Defendant - Appellant (14-1278): Richard H. McLeese, Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (14-1100): Christopher J. Stetler, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Ambrosio Medrano, Defendant - Appellant (14-1100): Gal Pissetzky, Attorney, Pissetzky & Berliner, Chicago, IL.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and POSNER and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 866

Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

Gustavo Buenrostro and Ambrosio Medrano were each convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, and each now appeals his conviction. We affirm. The convictions stem from a scheme to bribe a local official in California to obtain a government contract. The local official was fictional, however, invented by the FBI as part of an undercover government sting operation. The sting operation reached its denouement when a bribery check was handed to an undercover agent, and Buenrostro and Medrano were charged for their roles in the scheme.

A third defendant was also charged with conspiracy: James Barta. Like Buenrostro and Medrano, Barta was tried and convicted. Barta argued on appeal that he was entrapped into the conspiracy. We resolved his appeal in a separate opinion concluding that he had been entrapped as a matter of law. See United States v. Barta, 776 F.3d 931 (7th Cir. 2015). Neither Buenrostro nor Medrano argued (or could have argued) an entrapment defense, but each challenges his conviction on other grounds. Both Buenrostro and Medrano argue that there was not sufficient evidence of the financial elements of the federal bribery statute to support treating their conspiracy as a federal crime. Medrano also argues that his sentence is substantively unreasonable.

I. Factual Background

This sting operation began, as many do, with a criminal turned cooperating witness. One Michael DiFoggio worked as a cooperating witness for the FBI in exchange for a promise that the government would recommend a lesser sentence in his tax evasion case. DiFoggio introduced Medrano to a man purporting to be a health care consultant named George Castro. Castro told Medrano that in return for payment of a bribe to a corrupt official, he could obtain contract approval from Los Angeles County for the purchase of medical bandages for its hospital system. In reality " Castro" was an undercover FBI agent and there was no corrupt official. Medrano did not know this, of course, so when the medical bandages deal was concluded, he approached Castro about making another deal.

On that next deal--the one at issue here--Medrano teamed up with his old friend Buenrostro. Buenrostro and the undercover " Castro" eventually brought Barta into the discussions. Over the course of several meetings, the deal began to take shape. A bribe would be paid to the corrupt official by way of Castro (who would also take a piece of the bribe for ...


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