Submitted: February 9, 2017
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Springfield
SMITH, Chief Judge,  GRUENDER, and BENTON, Circuit
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
found Philip Delgrosso and Jeffrey Cain guilty of conspiracy
to distribute methamphetamine, money laundering, and
conspiracy to commit money laundering. Delgrosso also was
found guilty of failing to file Internal Revenue Service
("IRS") Form 8300. On appeal, Delgrosso argues that
the district court erred by (1) denying his motion for a new
trial based on newly discovered evidence; (2) denying his
motion for a new trial based on government misconduct; (3)
instructing the jury on "willful blindness"; (4)
denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal after the
verdict; and (5) denying safety-valve relief at sentencing.
Cain joins in Delgrosso's first and third points on
appeal. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.
and Cain operated an automobile dealership called Missouri
Auto Group. In 2013, they became acquainted with Jerry
Wright. Wright approached the two men with a proposed
business arrangement: he would provide funds for them to
purchase automobiles at dealer auctions, they would sell
those automobiles on the Missouri Auto Group lot, and the
three men would split the profits. According to Delgrosso,
Wright admitted to them that he had a criminal past but
claimed that he acquired his money through legitimate means
such as scrapping metal, selling other cars, and saving money
from working in prison.
reality, Wright acquired the money by operating a drug
trafficking organization ("DTO"). Associates of the
DTO would purchase methamphetamine in Phoenix, Arizona and
transport the methamphetamine back to Missouri for
distribution. Wright continued to operate this DTO during his
acquaintance with Delgrosso and Cain.
and Cain accepted Wright's offer, and they also hired him
to work part-time at Missouri Auto Group as an independent
contractor detailing cars. Over the next few months, Wright
passed over $150, 000 through Missouri Auto Group by
providing cash to Delgrosso and Cain to purchase vehicles.
For example, on one occasion, Cain purchased a vehicle in the
name of Missouri Auto Group with more than $13, 000 in cash
provided by Wright. On other occasions, Delgrosso brought
cash provided by Wright to Regions Bank to purchase
cashier's checks in the name of Missouri Auto Group.
Delgrosso then used these checks to purchase vehicles at 166
following an investigation by Drug Enforcement Agency task
force officer Brian Walsh and other law enforcement officers,
the DTO was uncovered and its members arrested. As a result,
thirteen of the DTO members, including Wright, pled guilty to
methamphetamine and money laundering offenses. Delgrosso and
Cain were charged with conspiracy to distribute
methamphetamine, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit
money laundering. Delgrosso also was charged with failure to
file IRS Form 8300. Delgrosso and Cain proceeded to trial.
Previously, in response to an IRS subpoena to Missouri Auto
Group, Delgrosso wrote an eleven-page letter detailing his
relationship with Wright, stating that Wright had purchased
multiple vehicles through Missouri Auto Group with funds that
Delgrosso insisted were from legitimate sources. At trial,
Delgrosso testified consistent with his letter. He denied any
knowledge that Wright was involved with drug sales. He also
insisted that he had questioned Wright about the source of
the money before accepting his offer. However, Delgrosso
admitted he never conducted a background check, confirmed
Wright's ownership of the vehicles he claimed to own, or
checked with any references or with Wright's probation
officer. Cain declined to testify.
invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify at the
trial of Delgrosso and Cain. However, other members of the
DTO testified about their knowledge of the two men. They
testified that Cain smoked and snorted methamphetamine with
other members of the DTO. According to one member, Robert
Cantrell, Cain requested that DTO members remove from the
Missouri Auto Group lot a vehicle with five pounds of
methamphetamine concealed in it because someone was coming to
visit the lot. Cantrell also testified that Wright gave
methamphetamine to him while Cain sat at the desk in front of
them and that, on another occasion, Wright gave
methamphetamine to someone else while in the same room as
Delgrosso. Another member, Perry Adams, testified that
Delgrosso called Wright "convict" and often
admonished Wright about avoiding the appearance of
unexplained wealth. The Government also introduced
Delgrosso's past criminal convictions showing that he had
previously attempted to launder money by converting illicit
funds into a cashier's check.
end of the trial, the district court gave the jury a
"willful blindness" instruction, stating that the
jury may find Delgrosso and Cain acted "knowingly"
if it found beyond a reasonable doubt that they
"believed there was a high probability that the
financial and monetary transactions [they engaged in with
Wright] involved funds derived from criminal activity and
that they took deliberate actions to avoid learning of that
fact." Neither defendant objected to this instruction.
The jury found Delgrosso and Cain guilty on all counts.
Delgrosso moved for a judgment of acquittal after the
verdict, which was denied.
the trial, Wright wrote an affidavit from prison claiming
that he misled Delgrosso and Cain and that he believed they
had no knowledge of the drug conspiracy. Prior to sentencing,
Delgrosso and Cain filed motions for a new trial based on
this newly discovered evidence and also based on government
misconduct. The district court denied these motions.
sentencing, Delgrosso argued that he met all of the
requirements for safety-valve relief, including the full
disclosure requirement. The district court disagreed, stating
that Delgrosso's testimony "most certainly was not
forthright and most certainly was not designed to come
clean." Hence, the district court overruled
Delgrosso's objection and sentenced both Delgrosso and
Cain to 120 months' imprisonment, the statutory minimum
for the ...