Argued: May 9, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Baltimore. William D. Quarles Jr., District
Lawrence Barron, WHITEFORD, TAYLOR & PRESTON, LLP,
Bethesda, Maryland, for Appellant. Rachel Miller Yasser,
OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland,
Rosenstein, United States Attorney, P. Michael Cunningham,
Assistant United States Attorney, Melanie Goldberg, Student
Law Clerk, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore,
Maryland, for Appellee.
GREGORY, Chief Judge, and KING and KEENAN, Circuit Judges.
by published opinion. Judge King wrote the opinion, in which
Chief Judge Gregory and Judge Keenan joined.
German de Jesus Ventura and his co-defendant, Kevin Garcia
Fuertes, ran several brothels in Annapolis, Maryland.
Eventually, their seedy empire was exposed, resulting in the
prosecution of Ventura and Fuertes in the District of
Maryland. In a seven-count indictment, Ventura was charged
with sex trafficking and related offenses. After a jury found
Ventura guilty of all seven charges, the district court
sentenced him to 420 months in prison. Ventura appealed, and
we vacated one of his seven convictions, plus the sentence
imposed on the vacated conviction. We therefore remanded to
the district court for resentencing. See United States v.
Fuertes, 805 F.3d 485 (4th Cir. 2015) (the "First
Decision"). On remand, the
court resentenced Ventura to an aggregate of 420 months.
Ventura has now appealed the new sentence and, as explained
below, we affirm.
the help of Fuertes, Ventura established and operated a chain
of brothels in Annapolis, Maryland. In early 2008, Ventura
was looking to expand and assume control of other brothels in
the area. To that end, he was threatening violence to other
pimps. For example, in March 2008, Ventura told an associate
about another pimp who had been causing him trouble - Ricardo
Humberto "el Pelon" Rivas Ramirez. On September 13,
2008, Ramirez was murdered. The Annapolis Police Department
(the "APD") learned that, prior to the murder,
Ramirez "had received threatening phone calls from two
different phone numbers." See Fuertes, 805 F.3d
at 490-91. Shortly thereafter, on September 24, 2008, Fuertes
was arrested by the APD after being stopped for a traffic
violation. That arrest revealed that Fuertes's cell phone
number was associated with the threatening calls made to
Ramirez. When arrested again by the APD on September 25,
2008, Fuertes had in his possession the cell phone from which
the threatening calls to Ramirez had been made. Also in his
possession were a handful of homemade business cards that
advertised prostitution services.
his September 25 arrest, Fuertes consented to a search of his
home. During the search, the APD uncovered several items
indicating that the home was a brothel. The search also
turned up an address book that included an entry connecting
the second phone number associated with Ramirez's
threatening calls to a man named "Pancho." Further
investigation revealed that Ventura, also known as
"Pancho" and "Chino, " was the subscriber
of the second phone number.
suspicions aroused, the APD continued to monitor the
activities of Ventura and Fuertes. Their monitoring revealed
that Ventura operated brothels in Annapolis and that his
enterprise extended to Easton, Maryland, and Portsmouth,
Virginia. In fact, the APD learned some operational details
of Ventura's venture:
Ventura arranged for prostitutes to work in the brothels from
Monday through Sunday. Typically, the women communicated with
Ventura by phone, then traveled by bus to Washington, D.C.,
where they met Ventura, or one of his employees, and drove to
the brothel where they worked for the week. The prostitutes
provided fifteen minutes of sex for thirty dollars, and were
paid half of the gross receipts, less expenses for food,
hygiene products, and other expenses of the trade.
See Fuertes, 805 F.3d at 491. In addition to their
pay, the prostitutes working for Ventura also received his
wrath. One woman, Rebecca Duenas Franco, was compelled by
Ventura "to engage in prostitution by violence and
threats of violence, and [he] held her against her will. . .
. On one occasion, when Duenas refused to have sex . . .
Ventura beat her with a belt." Id. Duenas -
unlike other employees - was not financially compensated for
her services. Ventura's violence also extended to his
competitors, other employees, and those of whom he was
suspicious. For example, according to Duenas, "Ventura
threatened competitor pimps, " "celebrat[ed]
Ramirez's murder, " "assaulted a male employee
who threated to go to the police, " and "beat a
prostitute who he believed had sent people to rob one of his
brothels." Id. at 492.
March 25, 2009, Fuertes was again arrested by the APD. This
time the APD found him in an Annapolis apartment littered
with "evidence that the residence was being used as a
brothel." See Fuertes, 805 F.3d at 492. A
search of his person resulted in the seizure of a paper on
which the phone number associated with Ventura and the
threats to Ramirez was written.
Ventura was arrested by the APD on September 24, 2009, he
possessed two cell phones, but nevertheless claimed not to
have a phone number. He explained that neither phone was his
- "he had found one cell phone at the mall" and
"he was borrowing the other from a taxicab driver whose
name he did not know." See Fuertes, 805 F.3d at
492. One of the phones, however, carried the phone number
associated with Ventura and the threats to Ramirez.
months later - on February 17, 2010 - a 911 call about a
robbery was made from yet another phone number associated
with Ventura and from which other area pimps had been
receiving threatening calls. The robbery - which occurred at
one of Ventura's brothels - had been committed by a
former employee of Ventura. That employee, who had worked as
a doorman, "testified at trial that he committed the
robbery because he had not been paid for his work at the
brothel." See Fuertes, 805 F.3d at 492.
subsequently learned that Ventura had opened a brothel in
Easton, Maryland. During the execution of a search warrant at
that brothel on July 7, 2010, the APD arrested two more of
Ventura's employees. As the investigation into
Ventura's illicit enterprises continued, the APD
ascertained, on August 2, 2010, "that Ventura was
transporting a prostitute from Maryland to a brothel in
[Virginia]." See Fuertes, 805 F.3d at 492.
on November 3, 2010, "several men believed to be
operating at Ventura's behest seriously assaulted
competitor-pimp Hector Fabian Avila." See
Fuertes, 805 F.3d at 492. At this point, the
investigation came to a head, and the APD arrested Ventura at
his home in Capitol Heights, Maryland, on November 15, 2010.
He has been in custody since then.
November 29, 2011, Ventura was charged in a superseding
indictment by the grand jury in Baltimore with seven
• Count One - Conspiracy to commit interstate
prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371;
• Count Two - Interstate transportation in furtherance
of prostitution offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
• Count Three - Coercion and inducement of individuals
to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution and illegal
sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a);
• Count Four - Interstate transportation in furtherance
of prostitution offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
• Count Five - Interstate transportation in furtherance
of prostitution offenses, in violation of 18 ...