United States v. Arellanes-Portillo (10th Cir. May 2022)

The Federal Docket

June 14, 2022

Jesus Arellanes-Portillo pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, and immigration offenses and challenged the district court’s 3-level role enhancement to Arellanes-Portillo’s offense level for the money laundering counts.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court plainly erred in basing the role enhancement on Arellanes-Portillo’s related drug offenses rather than exclusively on his money laundering offenses. Under Application Note 2(C) to the money laundering guideline, USSG 2S1.1, any role enhancement “shall be determined based on the offense covered by this guideline (i.e., the laundering of criminally derived funds) and not on the underlying offense from which the laundered funds were derived.” The court had treated Arellanes-Portillo’s relevant conduct under USSG 1B1.3, as related to his drug offenses, as relevant conduct for his money laundering offenses, effectively capturing the entire offenses under the umbrella of “relevant conduct.” This was plain and reversible error, the court held, as “the government must justify an aggravating-role adjustment for money-laundering convictions with money-laundering relevant conduct.”

Appeal from the District of Kansas
Opinion by Phillips, joined by Bacharach and Seymour

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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