United States v. Vargas, No. 20-40040 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Defendant Joel Vargas was convicted of two counts of transporting stolen goods in interstate or foreign commerce and one count of conspiracy to do the same based on his leadership of a crew of burglars, which targeted commercial tire stores. Defendant Angelica, Joel's wife, was convicted of conspiracy to transport stolen goods based on her role as the crew's paymaster and alternate burglary driver. Joel was also convicted of witness tampering based on evidence that he threatened the father of the crew member who cooperated with law enforcement in Joel's arrest.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions, concluding that defendants failed to show that any constructive amendment to their indictment affected their substantial rights because the trial record contained evidence supporting a guilty verdict on the crime actually charged in the indictment. Furthermore, in such cases, the court declined to exercise its discretion to grant relief. The court also concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendants' convictions for transportation of stolen goods in foreign commerce, conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce, and witness tampering.