Submitted: May 16, 2019
from United States District Court for the District of
Nebraska - Omaha
COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
MELLOY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Carlos Valquier appeals his sentence, arguing the district
courtcommitted clear error in finding that his
proffer with the government was not complete and truthful as
necessary to qualify for safety valve relief under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(f). We affirm.
stopped a vehicle and discovered over thirty-five pounds of
methamphetamine. The driver, Blanca Avila De Vega, agreed to
assist officers with a controlled buy. Carlos and another
man, Alejandro Buendia-Ramirez, arrived at the buy with
approximately $90, 000, and officers arrested them. Carlos
subsequently assisted officers by directing them to a stash
house he had rented. At the stash house, officers arrested
Carlos's brother, Alfredo Valquier. Carlos, Alfredo, and
several other conspirators were charged with drug offenses,
but only Alfredo went to trial.
the plea process, in an effort to obtain safety valve relief,
Carlos participated in two proffer sessions with the
government. In those sessions, he claimed to have played a
minor role in the conspiracy. He explained that his mother
had put a cousin in touch with him and Alfredo and that the
cousin first recruited Alfredo. After learning that Alfredo
had been paid $500 to drive a short distance, Carlos asked
Alfredo to get work for him too. Subsequently, Carlos said he
was tasked with renting the stash house and transporting
Buendia-Ramirez there. Carlos claimed that the cousin was
ultimately the person "calling the shots."
sentencing, the government argued that Carlos's proffer
was neither complete nor truthful. For support, the
government referred to testimony that Avila De Vega and
Buendia-Ramirez gave during Alfredo's trial, over which
the same district court judge had presided. According to the
government, Avila De Vega testified that she had delivered
drugs to Carlos and Alfredo on a previous occasion, and
Buendia-Ramirez testified that the brothers: (1) brought him
cash on different occasions; (2) "were aware that they
were dealing in drugs"; and (3) had plans to take the
proceeds of the drugs to a different state. The government
also offered testimony from an agent involved in the
investigation of the case and the proffer discussions. The
agent testified primarily about two phone calls between
Carlos and Alfredo during which Carlos essentially told
Alfredo that "he wasn't going to tell them
anything" and "they weren't as innocent as they
would like to believe."
hearing the evidence, the district court noted that
Carlos's eligibility for safety valve relief was a
"close question." The court ultimately determined,
however, that the government had a "reasonable
basis" for arguing against relief because, while the
information Carlos provided was truthful, the evidence
suggested that it was not complete. The district court
therefore denied Carlos safety valve relief and sentenced him
to the statutory mandatory-minimum term of 120 months'
the safety valve statute and parallel advisory guidelines
provision, Congress provided relief for less culpable drug
offenders from its harsh mandatory minimum sentences."
United States v. Hinojosa, 728 F.3d 787, 790 (8th
Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
To qualify for safety valve relief, a defendant must
establish each of the five requirements contained in 18
U.S.C. § 3553(f) by a preponderance of the evidence.
Id. At issue in this case is whether Carlos
established the fifth requirement: that he "truthfully
provided to the Government all information and evidence [he
had] concerning the offense." 18 U.S.C. §
review "a district court's findings regarding the
completeness and truthfulness of information provided by a
defendant and the ultimate denial of safety valve relief for
clear error." Hinojosa, 728 F.3d at 790. In
assessing the completeness and truthfulness of the
information provided, a district court "is entitled to
draw reasonable inferences from the evidence," and
"[t]he legal test is simply whether the record supports
its safety valve findings." United States v.
Alvarado-Rivera, 412 F.3d 942, 948-49 (8th Cir. 2005)
the government's evidence suggests that Carlos had a larger
role in the drug conspiracy than he admitted to, and Carlos
failed to establish that he did in fact provide complete
information. See Alvarado-Rivera, 412 F.3d at 948
(concluding that "limited admissions in the face of
evidence implicating [a defendant] in major drug
activity" do not equate to providing truthful and
complete information necessary for safety valve relief);
see also United States v. Nguyen, 608 F.3d 368, 378
(8th Cir. 2010) ("The testimony of several witnesses
contradicted the facts set forth in the safety valve
statement and the district court agreed with the government
that [the defendant] attempted to minimize his role when he
made the safety valve statement. Under those circumstances,
it was not clear error for the district court to refuse to
accord [the defendant] safety valve relief.");
United States v. Gomez-Perez, 452 F.3d 739, 742-43
(8th Cir. 2006) (affirming the denial of safety valve relief
where the defendant's proffer statements "were
inconsistent with other defendants who discussed his drug
activity"). Thus, the district court did not clearly err
in denying Carlos safety valve relief.
affirm the judgment of ...