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Molina-Sanchez v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

January 19, 2018



          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, (Doc. No. 1), and on the Government's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 5).

         I. BACKGROUND

         1. Petitioner participates in a lucrative, eight-year cocaine-trafficking conspiracy.

         Beginning in 2004, pro se Petitioner Jorge Molina-Sanchez (referred to hereinafter as “Petitioner” or “Jorge”) and his brother, Juan Molina-Sanchez (“Juan”), began trafficking large quantities of cocaine. (Crim. No. 3:12cr316-FDW-DSC-2, Doc. No. 60 at 22: Trial Tr.). The brothers got started through their cousin, Jose Luis Molina, and their uncle, who was their cocaine supplier. (Id. at 22-23). Jorge and Juan initially received two kilograms of cocaine that was transported from California to Salisbury, North Carolina, in a Ford Taurus with a secret compartment. (Id. at 23, 35). The first two kilograms were “fronted” to the brothers, who paid for it after distributing it, at which time their cousin and uncle made another delivery, this time of four kilograms. (Id. at 23-24). For the first year, Jorge and Juan received bi-monthly shipments of four kilograms of cocaine, with their uncle and cousin taking turns delivering the cocaine in the Taurus with the hidden compartment. (Id. at 24). Beginning in 2005, Jorge and Juan doubled the amount of cocaine they received to eight kilograms per shipment and moved to a car with a bigger hidden compartment. (Id. at 25). They still received shipments every other month, and they eventually paid in cash for their cocaine. (Id. at 25, 27). They continued to transport the cocaine from California in automobiles with secret compartments, including a Toyota Camry, an Infinity I-30, a Chevrolet Malibu, and a BMW. (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 167; Doc. No. 60 at 43, 52).

         After receiving a shipment, Jorge and Juan sold the cocaine to their customers. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at 25-26). A couple of customers bought kilogram-quantities; others bought ounces and quarter ounces. (Id. at 26). In terms of the working relationship between Jorge and Juan, they were equal partners in the business, but each brother would “work a few months, then he would be done working and then it would be [the other brother's] turn to work.” (Id. at 29-30). The brothers shared the same customers, and when it was Jorge's turn to “work, ” he was solely responsible for transporting and distributing the cocaine. (Id. at 29-30). Each brother kept the profit he made during the shipments and distributions he was responsible for, “sav[ing] it, spend[ing] it, invest[ing] it in other things.” (Id. at 30). Both brothers used profits to buy cars. (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 201; Doc. No. 60 at 31).

         Lloyd Allen, the brothers' biggest customer in their first two years, began buying cocaine from Juan in 2004 and from Jorge in early 2005. (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 145-46). Initially, when he met Jorge, he bought four-and-a-half ounces from him for $3, 500. (Id. at 147-48). Thereafter, he dealt with both Jorge and Juan regularly, describing the brothers as equal partners in the business. (Id. at 147-48, 182). By late 2005, Allen was buying nine ounces of cocaine every two or three weeks from Jorge and Juan. (Id. at 149). This quantity increased to half a kilogram per transaction in 2006 and to kilogram quantities in 2007, peaking at four kilograms per transaction. (Id. at 149-52, 175). As long as Jorge and Juan had a supply, Allen continued to buy cocaine from them every two or three weeks, selling the cocaine he bought to customers. (Id. at 150). One of Allen's customers was Matt Jones, who in turn sold cocaine at Freightliner in Statesville, North Carolina, where he worked. (Id. at 154; see also id. at 176). Although Allen did not keep up with how many kilograms of cocaine he bought over the time he dealt with the brothers, he estimated that he bought a total of between 50 and 100 kilograms of cocaine. (Id. at 152-53).

         Around 2007 or 2008, Jorge and Juan also began dealing with “Anthony, ” another customer who eventually bought three or four kilograms at a time. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at 26-27). By 2009, the brothers were sending their own couriers to California to get cocaine, and they were buying 11 kilograms of cocaine every other month. (Id. at 28-29). On each 11-kilogram shipment, Jorge and Juan would profit approximately $80, 000. (Id. at 34-35). Jorge and Juan's sister, Susan Molina, and Juan's then-girlfriend, Sulay Lopez, worked as couriers for the brothers, traveling together six to eight times a year to California and driving back with 11 kilograms of cocaine in hidden compartments. (Id. at 35-37). Jorge bought a kilogram of heroin as part of the last shipment he received, intending to distribute it to Allen. (Id. at 38-39, 42, 54).

         In February 2011, Lopez and Susan Molina were pulled over in Utah on their way back to North Carolina, and 11 kilograms of cocaine were seized from a hidden compartment in the car they were traveling in. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 3; Doc. No. 60 at 37). A month later, law-enforcement officers conducting surveillance observed Juan enter a storage unit in Salisbury, North Carolina. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 3; Doc. No. 48 at 30). In a later warrant-supported search of the storage unit, officers found approximately $30, 000 in cash inside an Infinity I-30 registered to Juan. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 3; Doc. No. 60 at 27-29, 32; Doc. No. 59 at 20).

         In May 2011, law enforcement officers stopped a Chevrolet Tahoe in which Jorge was the driver and Juan was the passenger. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 59 at 57, 62). Although a drug detection dog alerted to the presence of controlled substances on the driver's-door seam, officers were not able to find controlled substances, though they did find handcuffs, binoculars, and a tactical holster. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 59 at 58-59, 63-64).

         In the Spring of 2011, Jorge offered to sell Allen heroin, an offer Allen declined because he “didn't know [anyone who] was interested in it.” (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 158-59). According to Allen, Jorge had what appeared to be a kilogram of heroin. (Id. at 160). Also in the spring of 2011, Jorge and Juan left the area, and Jorge called Allen, telling him that he did not know when he was coming back but that he had a new supplier out of town. (Id. at 158-59).

         Two months later, having tracked the Infinity I-30 to the home of Joel Santibanez, the brothers' cousin, in Salisbury, law-enforcement officers conducted a knock-and-talk at the home and spoke with Santibanez. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 58 at 34). Santibanez permitted the search of certain areas but not an outbuilding or the Infinity I-30. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 58 at 35-36). While at the home, Special Agent William Elmore with Homeland Security Investigations recognized a pair of brand-new commercial lawnmowers and lawnmower trailers that he had previously seen Jorge working on at his home one evening while under surveillance. (Id. at 37, 40). At the time of the search, the lawnmowers had only 15-30 hours of use logged on them. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 58 at 35, 40-41). Santibanez reported to the officers that he worked with Jorge mowing lawns. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 4). Also while at the home, agents searched a Chevrolet Malibu, registered to Jorge's wife, Yuritzi Alejandres, and located in a parking area beside the lawn equipment. (Id., Doc. No. 58 at 38-39). Inside the Malibu officers found paperwork with Jorge's and Juan's names. (Id., Doc. No. 58 at 45-48; Doc. No. 59 at 25-26).

         Later that same day, officers obtained a search warrant for the outbuilding and the Infinity I-30 inside the outbuilding. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 5; Doc. No. 58 at 37). A search of the car yielded a hidden compartment in which the officers found more than $138, 000 in cash, three kilograms of cocaine, and one kilogram of heroin. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 5; Doc. No. 58 at 38, 41-44; Doc. No. 59 at 133, 135). The officers also found documents in the car in both Jorge's and Juan's names. (Id., Doc. No. 1 at 5). In addition to the car, officers found more brand-new lawn equipment inside the outbuilding. (Id., Doc. No. 58 at 41).

         In August 2011, officers searched the home Jorge shared with his wife Alejandres in Salisbury. (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 78-79, 88). No. one was home when the search took place, and although the downstairs area of the house was well kept, it appeared that items had been removed “in a hurry” from the upstairs bedrooms. (Id. at 80-81). Officers found a tactical holster, mail addressed to Juan, a business card and flyer for a landscaping business identifying Jorge and Juan as the owners of the business, and a notebook containing Juan's name and “Salt Lake City, ” and “70.” (Id. at 81, 84-87, 89).

         A month later, Allen was arrested after buying two kilograms of cocaine in a transaction set up by investigating officers. (Id. at 99-100, 161, 175-77). At the time of Allen's arrest, the Chevrolet Tahoe that he bought from Jorge was parked at his house. (Id. at 100-01). Following his arrest, Allen began working with the investigators and recorded conversations with Jorge and Juan. (Id. at 100, 103-04, 107-08, 163; Doc. No. 60 at 45).

         In October 2011, Allen traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, meeting with Juan before traveling toward California where they planned to pick up cocaine. (Id., Doc. No. 59 at 141-42, 168-70, 172; Doc. No. 60 at 46-47, 49). Law enforcement officers who were monitoring Allen's conversations with Juan arrested Juan as he and Allen traveled west from Las Vegas on Interstate 15 ...

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