United States v. Alvarado-Santiago, No. 19-2937 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Guzman-Cordoba and Alvarado-Santiago participated in an extensive drug trafficking organization operating from Indianapolis and Chicago. Guzman-Cordoba was a drug courier, drug seller, and stash house guard; Alvarado-Santiago laundered the drug proceeds by wiring large sums from the Indianapolis grocery store that he managed to California and Mexico. Nine defendants were indicted. Guzman-Cordoba presented a duress defense, arguing that she had been forced to join the organization through violence and threats of violence to herself and her family. Alvarado-Santiago argued that he did not know that the money he had sent to California and Mexico was drug money. A jury convicted Guzman-Cordoba of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and distribution of methamphetamine and convicted Alvarado-Santiago of conspiracy to launder money.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court erred in limiting the evidence Guzman-Cordoba attempted to introduce regarding her duress defense, erred in instructing the jury on that defense, and erred in ordering her to forfeit $10,000 in cash that was found at a stash house. The court rejected Alvarado-Santiago’s argument that the district court erred in only admitting a portion of his post-arrest statement, in admitting a statement by Guzman-Cordoba without limiting the jury’s ability to consider that evidence against him, and in giving the jury an instruction on deliberate avoidance of knowledge, the “ostrich instruction.”