United States v. Jhony Contreras Maradiaga (11th Cir. Feb. 2021)

The Federal Docket

Visa Fraud – An order of supervision from ICE constitutes an “other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States.”

Jhony Contreras was convicted for using a fraudulent immigration document under 18 U.S.C. 1546(a) based on his use of a fraudulent order of supervision to obtain a driver’s license in Florida. He appealed, challenging his conviction as outside the scope of 1546(a), the jury instructions, and comments made by the government during closing arguments.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. First, the Court held that an order of supervision from ICE constitutes an “other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States,” citing its decision a day earlier in United States v. Chinchilla. The Government also rejected the defendant’s argument that it was plain error for the judge to include the “or employment” portion of the statute in the instructions to the jury.

Finally, the Court held that there was no reversible plain error regarding the government’s closing arguments. The Court agreed some of the government’s statements were misleading, namely the government’s repeated statements that a lawyer the defendant had allegedly received the order did not exist despite evidence to the contrary, but held the defendant failed to show prejudice.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida
Opinion by Lagoa, joined by Wilson and Hull

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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