7th Circuit affirms lengthy sentence for Indy drug conspiracy’s ‘right-hand man’

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed an Indianapolis man’s sentence for his involvement in a massive methamphetamine drug ring that involved dozens of firearms and multiple illicit substances.

In 2016, federal investigations of an Indianapolis meth trafficking organization led agents to brothers Jose and Juan Zamudio’s drug trafficking activities in the city.

After phone surveillance, 40 warrants were executed in November 2016 that led to the seizure of dozens of firearms, 15 pounds of methamphetamine and smaller quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana, plus cash. At least 18 people were indicted, including Jose Zamudio, who pleaded guilty to four counts and received a 380-month term.

Agents also executed a search warrant for Juan Zamudio’s Indianapolis residence, where they found 10.961 kilograms of pure meth stored throughout the garage. His vehicle also contained a pound of meth, a digital scale, and a loaded firearm.

Juan Zamudio was later indicted and charged with four illegal drug‐ and firearm‐related offenses. He pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of meth and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

At his sentencing, the Southern District Court described Juan Zamudio as Jose Zamudio’s “right‐hand man” and “number two accomplice” who “played an instrumental role in the conspiracy.”

The district court then attributed at least 4.5 kilograms of actual meth to Juan Zamudio after finding that he allowed his brother to store nearly 25 pounds of pure meth in his garage. It additionally applied two enhancements as recommended by the presentence report, including a firearm enhancement and a drug premises enhancement, totaling his sentence to 300 months of imprisonment.

Juan Zamudio unsuccessfully appealed to the 7th Circuit, alleging the district court made three mistakes at sentencing. He argued that its base offense level calculation was erroneous because its finding attributing at least 4.5 kilograms to Zamudio was not supported by credible evidence, and that it erred in applying both enhancements.

The 7th Circuit affirmed in United States of America v. Juan Zamudio, 20-3016, first finding sufficient evidence to establish Zamudio’s direct involvement with the drugs stored in his garage. It also concluded that the drug amounts were reasonably foreseeable to him.

As to the enhancements, the 7th Circuit noted that it had previously found the application of a firearm enhancement to be proper where a gun “was found in a car that was admittedly used on one occasion, approximately six weeks earlier, to transport a drug shipment,” even though there were no drugs present in the car.

“And here, there is even more evidence tying (Juan) Zamudio’s gun to the drug offense, as detailed above. Zamudio also asserts that his brother stored the firearm along with the methamphetamine inside Zamudio’s vehicle without his knowledge, but there is no record support for this assertion,” it wrote.

As for the drug premises enhancement, the 7th Circuit rejected Juan Zamudio’s claim that his residence was used to store drugs “on only one occasion.”

“…But the district court’s application of the enhancement is further supported here by the fact that more meth and ‘tools of the trade’—a digital scale and firearm—were seized from Zamudio’s vehicle in his garage,” it concluded.

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