Acre Fuentes v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 06-10-2015
  • Case #: 11-73131
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam: Circuit Judges Pregerson, Fernandez, and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

A monetary threshold set forth in a statute is not a material element of conspiring to commit money laundering, and thus a tribunal who relies on the offender’s pre-sentence report to determine whether the threshold was met does so properly.

Maria Arce Fuentes (“Fuentes”), a Mexican native and citizen, became a lawful U.S. resident in 1990. In 2006, Fuentes was indicted in the District Court of Puerto Rico on seventy-five counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In exchange for the government to dismiss remaining counts, Arce pled guilty to conspiracy. Consequently the government initiated removal proceedings for Arce in 2008. Arce appeared before the immigration judge (“IJ”) and contested her felony conviction. However, the IJ found Arce statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal after concluding Arce conspired to launder money exceeding the amount of $10,000; the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed the IJ’s determination. The BIA found Arce’s conviction to commit money laundering violated the statute and was an aggravated felony because the amount of funds exceeded $10,000 as is statutorily required. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit relied on prior precedent to use a “circumstance-specific” fact-based approach to determine the facts underlying the alien-offender’s conviction, and whether that alien-offender was convicted of an offense involving funds exceeding $10,000. The panel noted that the $10,000 threshold must refer to a circumstance, not an element of an offense, because Congress would not have intended to define a crime involving fraud or deceit to be construed so narrowly. As a result, the panel held that the $10,000 cap for money laundering offenses referred to a specific circumstance, and thus made two conclusions: (1) the specific circumstances of Arce’s conviction met the monetary threshold of $10,000 and Arce was therefore an aggravated felon; and (2) the BIA correctly found Arce ineligible for cancellation of removal. PETITION DENIED.

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