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United States v. Strickland

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 17, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Ronald Edward Strickland, Defendant.


          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge.

         On June 20, 2017, Defendant pleaded guilty to transporting and harboring an illegal alien, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii). The Court held a sentencing hearing on October 17, 2017. At the hearing, the Court heard argument on Defendant's various objections to the Presentence Report. The Court adjourned the hearing until November 29, 2017 and now issues a written decision regarding the objections. For the reasons below, the Court overrules Defendant's objections and concludes that both the dangerousness enhancement, U.S.S.G. § 2L1.1(b)(6), and the obstruction of justice enhancement, U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, apply in this case.


         On August 31, 2016, Defendant was indicted on one count of transporting and harboring an illegal alien, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) (Doc. # 18). On June 20, 2017, Defendant pleaded guilty as charged. Probation services has prepared a Presentence Investigation Report. Defendant has raised several objections to the report (Doc. # 57) and the Government has responded (Doc. # 60). Specifically, Defendant objects to the inclusion of paragraphs 6 through 14 of the report, the application of the dangerousness enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2L1.1(b)(6), and the application of the obstruction of justice enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1.[1]

         Having heard and observed the witnesses who testified at the hearing, considering the arguments presented by counsel, and applying the governing legal principles, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.[2]


         On July 22, 2016, Homeland Security Investigations received an anonymous tip that Defendant Ronald Strickland had smuggled a young woman, 22-year-old Rosa Osorto Osorto, into the United States from Honduras. That same day, Homeland Security agents visited Defendant's house. Defendant invited the agents into the house and the agents verified that Osorto Osorto was located there. Defendant admitted that he had traveled to Houston, Texas to pick up Osorto Osorto after she called him to advise that she had arrived in the United States. The agents administratively detained Osorto Osorto.

         Defendant had been frequently traveling to Honduras for many years, ostensibly for missionary work. While in Honduras, he frequently became sexually involved with young women that he met there. To maintain these relationships, Defendant would lavish the girls with money and gifts. Over the past ten years, Defendant has wired a substantial sum of money to these women and others in Honduras.

         Defendant met Osorto Osorto approximately five years ago during a visit to Honduras. They began a relationship when Osorto Osorto was approximately 16 or 17 years old and became sexually involved when she was 19. While in the United States, Defendant would send Osorto Osorto and her family money, sending about $6, 652 to Osorto Osorto and $3, 398 to her sister.

         Defendant began to attempt to facilitate Osorto Osorto's entry into the United States. Defendant hired smugglers to help transport Osorto Osorto from Honduras to the United States and would communicate with them directly through the cellular application “WhatsApp.” Osorto Osorto unsuccessfully attempted to enter the United States on two occasions. During the first attempt, she was abandoned by a smuggler in Mexico.

         Defendant paid about $8, 000 to facilitate Osorto Osorto's most recent attempt to enter the United States. During her journey, Defendant remained in contact with Osorto Osorto and the smugglers transporting her. He warned Osorto Osorto that one location where she had stopped, Nuevo Laredo, was very dangerous. Osorto Osorto informed Defendant that she would be walking five to six hours through the desert. She also told him that she was under the control of Los Zetas, a Mexican gang, and that women in her group had been sexually molested and robbed.

         Osorto Osorto encountered numerous dangers on her journey. Some of the smugglers transporting her were armed. At one point, she had to jump from a moving train and roll down a large hill to continue following the smugglers. The smugglers eventually sent Osorto Osorto and her group into the desert alone, instructing them to meet up with other smugglers on the way. Osorto Osorto's group became lost in the desert without sufficient food or water for a couple of days. Nevertheless, Osorto Osorto eventually made it into the United States. She was detained shortly after she arrived in Tennessee with Defendant.

         Following the discovery and detention of Osorto Osorto, Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant at Defendant's residence. During the search, they recovered a document purportedly from the “Legal Courier Dispatch of Tennessee, ” an entity that does not exist. The document included Defendant's address and phone number and instructed corrections officers to allow the named courier, Ronald E. Strickland, visitation access to Osorto-Osorto. The document also demanded any and all documents and papers concerning Osorto Osorto. There is no indication that Defendant ever sent or otherwise attempted to use this document.

         In August, Defendant placed a recorded phone call from jail in which he advised his brother to retrieve a computer that he had dropped off at a computer shop. Defendant dropped off the computer the day after the search warrant was executed at his home. Defendant asked his brother to ensure that the request he made was completed. Defendant's claim ticket, which contains his name and address, indicated that Defendant requested that the computer be reset ...

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