from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
SMITH, CLEMENT, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge:
Feliciano Lopez-Monzon appeals from his convictions for
possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of
methamphetamine and importing 500 grams or more of
methamphetamine. He challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence only as to the knowledge element of his convictions.
For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of
the district court.
accompanied by Luis Fernando Rivera-De Leon, brought two
tractor-trailers to Hotel Pena in Mexico, located near the
United States border. Lopez-Monzon hired Juan
Buentello-Garcia and Santiago Guadiana, freelance truck
drivers, to drive the tractor-trailers into the United
States. On December 26, 2014, Buentello-Garcia drove the
first tractor-trailer-a white Freightliner with a car hauler
("Freightliner")-with instructions to leave it at
Transmigrante Mireya, a business located just inside the
United States border. Guadiana did not drive the second
tractor-trailer into the United States because it had a
entered the United States at the Los Indios, Texas port of
entry. During an inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
("CBP"), liquid methamphetamine was discovered in
the Freightliner's passenger-side fuel tank.
Buentello-Garcia was arrested, and in his interview he
asserted that he was unaware that the fuel tank contained
methamphetamine. A specialist later calculated that a total
of 200.3 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride had been
dissolved in the 100-gallon fuel tank, resulting in 411.4
kilograms of a substance containing methamphetamine. That
amount of methamphetamine was worth up to $3 million in
Houston, Texas. When Guadiana learned of
Buentello-Garcia's arrest, he refused to drive the second
tractor-trailer into the United States.
next day, Lopez-Monzon and De Leon entered Texas on foot at
the Los Indios Bridge port of entry. Later that day, at a gas
station near the port of entry, Lopez-Monzon approached CBP
Agent Jaime Vidal about the Freightliner. Lopez-Monzon
identified himself as the owner of the Freightliner. Agent
Vidal called for backup and escorted Lopez-Monzon and De Leon
to the customs area.
Security Investigations Agent Angelico Santiago interviewed
Lopez-Monzon and De Leon. Lopez-Monzon was nervous and
anxious during the interview. Lopez-Monzon told Agent
Santiago that he owned the Freightliner, and that he had
bought the Freightliner with a man named Ruben "four to
five months" earlier. He asserted that he did not know
about the methamphetamine in the fuel tank, and that "if
someone had put something in the gas tank, it would have been
Lopez-Monzon also told Agent Santiago that he and De Leon
traveled together from Guatemala. He said that De Leon drove
the Freightliner, and that Lopez-Monzon
"follow[ed]" in a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Lopez-Monzon admitted that "he noticed that one of the
tanks was not functioning properly" but told Agent
Santiago that the defective fuel tank "did not bother
him." Lopez-Monzon explained that "he thought that
the tank was full and the fuel inside was left there by . . .
the previous owner."
and Buentello-Garcia were charged with four counts: (1)
conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or
more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A) ("Count
One"); (2) possessing with intent to distribute 500
grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), and 18 U.S.C. § 2
("Count Two"); (3) conspiring to import 500 grams
or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 963, 952(a) and 960(b)(1) ("Count
Three"); and (4) importing 500 grams or more of
methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
952(a), and 960(b)(1), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 ("Count
Four"). The government dropped the charges against
Buentello-Garcia after further investigation, and he was
instead considered a material witness. Lopez-Monzon pleaded
not guilty to all counts.
government presented numerous exhibits and extensive
testimony during a three-day jury trial. Lopez-Monzon moved
for a judgment of acquittal at the end of the
government's case in chief, and again at the close of all
evidence. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). The district
court denied those motions. The jury found Lopez-Monzon
guilty of Counts Two and Four and not guilty of Counts One
and Three. Lopez-Monzon again moved for a judgment of
acquittal. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c). The district
court again denied his motion.
district court sentenced Lopez-Monzon to 292 months in prison
and five years of supervised release. Lopez-Monzon timely
appealed. He challenges the sufficiency of the ...