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United States v. Ramos

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

September 9, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY ANN RAMOS, Defendant.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendant Mary Ann Ramos's "Renewed Motion for Judgment of Acquittal" ("Motion") (docket no. 71), following a jury trial after which Defendant was found guilty of distribution of synthetic and analogue controlled substances.

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 8, 2014, a grand jury returned a five-count Superseding Indictment (docket no. 29) against Defendant. Count 1 charged Defendant with knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of XLR-11, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Count 2 charged Defendant with knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of Alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone ("Alpha-PVP"), a Schedule I controlled substance analogue, knowing that the substance was intended for human consumption in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 813 and 841(a)(1). Count 3 charged Defendant with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of XLR-11, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Count 4 charged Defendant with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of Alpha-PVP, a Schedule I controlled substance analogue, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 813 and 841(a)(1). Count 5 charged Defendant with knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue, Alpha-PVP), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The Superseding Indictment also contained a forfeiture allegation.[1]

On June 23, 2014, a jury trial commenced on Counts 1-5 of the Superseding Indictment. On June 24, 2014, at the close of the government's evidence, Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, and the court reserved ruling. See June 24, 2014 Minute Entry (docket no. 59) at 1. On June 25, 2014, at the close of all the evidence, Defendant renewed her motion for a judgment of acquittal and the court reserved ruling. See June 25, 2014 Minute Entry (docket no. 60) at 1. On June 26, 2014, the jury returned guilty verdicts on Counts 1-4 and a not guilty verdict on Count 5. Jury Verdicts (docket no. 67).

On July 8, 2014, Defendant filed the Motion, requesting that the court grant a judgment of acquittal on Counts 1-4. On July 18, 2014, the government filed a Resistance (docket no. 73). Defendant has not filed a reply, and the time for doing so has expired. See LCrR 47(a) ("Local Rule 7 governs motion procedure in criminal cases."); LR 7(g) ("[T]he moving party may, within 7 days after a resistance to a motion is served, file a reply brief."). The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. RELEVANT TRIAL EVIDENCE [2]

Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the trial evidence showed that Defendant operated an iWireless store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she sold cellular telephones, cellular telephone accessories, Avon products and various other items such as clothing and candles. In addition to these products, Defendant sold products through the iWireless store that contained XLR-11, a Schedule I controlled substance. She sold these products under names such as "Mr. Happy" and "Mr. Nice Guy."

Apart from the iWireless store, Defendant had a business in which she sold Avon and Scentsy[3] products by taking orders from her customers and personally delivering the products. Defendant would e-mail her customers promoting the Avon and Scentsy products she was selling, and she would provide her customers with receipts for their purchases.

On May 28, 2013, Kelly Meggers and Bryan Furman, task force officers with the Drug Enforcement Administration, conducted a controlled buy at the iWireless store in Cedar Rapids. Officer Furman wore a recording device through which some of the conversation in the iWireless store was captured. Upon entering the store, officers Meggers and Furman asked Defendant if she had potpourri for sale. Defendant walked to a different area in the store and retrieved packages labeled "Mr. Happy" and "Mr. Nice Guy" and showed them to the officers, asking which scent or flavor they preferred. Officers Meggers and Furman paid $26.75 for the package containing "Mr. Nice Guy, " which represents $25 plus $1.75 in tax, and Defendant provided the officers with a receipt for the transaction, listing the item sold as "Accessories." Defendant, unprovoked, asked whether Officers Meggers and Furman needed rolling papers. The packaging on the "Mr. Nice Guy" indicated that the substance was not for human consumption, included a list of Schedule I controlled substances that the package purportedly did not contain and stated that it was one hundred percent cannabinoid free and DEA-compliant. Sometime later, the Drug Enforcement Administration tested the "Mr. Nice Guy" and determined it to be XLR-11, a Schedule I controlled substance.

On June 19, 2013, sometime around 9:50 p.m., a confidential informant ("CI") called Defendant and asked to meet. Defendant, unprompted, responded by asking the CI what she was trying to get. The CI stated that she was looking for "Mr. Nice Guy" and whatever "jar" Defendant had. Defendant asked the CI what her price range was, and the CI indicated that she wanted to spend less than $80. Defendant informed the CI that she had a twelve-gram quantity of "Mr. Happy" and a ten-gram quantity of "Insane." Defendant met the CI at a gas station in Waterloo, Iowa, where the CI entered Defendant's vehicle. Defendant sold the CI one package of "Mr. Happy" and one jar of "Blue" for a total of $75. The Drug Enforcement Administration tested the jar of "Blue" and discovered that it contained Alpha-PVP.

On June 26, 2013, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at the iWireless store in Cedar Rapids at which Defendant worked, Defendant's red Ford Edge van and Defendant's residence in Evansdale, Iowa. Officers discovered many packages of synthetic cannabinoid products throughout the iWireless store, including in loose packages in a drawer under a counter, inside a purse-like bag in a cabinet, in a gray bag in the back of a storage room and in a cardboard box under a desk in the back office. The products containing XLR-11 were labeled "Mr. Happy, " "Insane, " "Mr. Nice Guy, " "LOL, " "Hydro Kush" and "King Kong." Each of these products included a label indicating that the substance was not for human consumption. Officers also discovered a product labeled "Next Generation" that, when tested, did not contain a controlled substance and smoking paraphernalia such as glass pipes, candy pipes and rolling papers. Under the counter in which the cash register sat, officers discovered a container of "Blue" that tested positive for Alpha-PVP. In Defendant's Ford Edge, officers discovered a synthetic cannabinoid product labeled "Diablo" in the back pocket of the driver's seat and several containers of "Blue" in the rear area. The "Blue" contained Alpha-PVP.

In the basement of Defendant's residence, officers discovered additional products containing XLR-11 as well as additional packages labeled "Blue" that, when tested, were found to contain Alpha-PVP. The jars of "Blue" had labels affixed that indicated that the jar contained ...


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