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04/12/88 United States of America v. John C. Tarantino

April 12, 1988











Silberman, Buckley, and Williams, Circuit Judges.

Sam Bell, Appellant 1988.CDC.144

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Criminal Nos. 83-00320-08, 83-00320-05, 83-00320-07 and 83-00320-12.



This is an appeal from criminal convictions following a complex, two-month trial before U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan.

All appellants were convicted on count one of the twenty-five count indictment: conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (1982). In addition, John C. Tarantino was convicted as a principal, 18 U.S.C. § 2 (1982), of four counts of violations of the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1952 (1982). Fred B. Black, Jr. was also convicted of violating the Travel Act, and Wilfred Samuel Bell of distribution of cocaine.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 86 L. Ed. 680, 62 S. Ct. 457 (1942), these appellants and others conspired to import, possess, and distribute large quantities of cocaine in various locales, and to launder the proceeds of this illegal activity. Lawrence ("Lonnie") Strickland, the main player in the conspiracy, testified for the government in exchange for a favorable recommendation to the sentencing judge who would consider Strickland's guilty plea. The government's evidence essentially established that (1) Black assisted Strickland in launching his drug operation and in laundering the resulting profits; (2) Robert H. Burns was instrumental in introducing Strickland to major drug importers (for which Burns received commissions) and laundering his illicit profits; (3) Tarantino participated heavily in distributing Strickland's cocaine and laundering his profits; and (4) Bell was Strickland's main distributor in the Washington, D.C. area.

Following guilty pleas by various defendants not now before us, a trial of the charges against Tarantino, Black, and Burns began on May 14, 1984. Judge Hogan declared a mistrial on June 13, 1984, and a new trial, in which Bell was joined, began on January 11, 1985. The jury returned the convictions on March 8, 1985.

We commend Judge Hogan on his conduct of this long and difficult trial. Apart from a few errors that we conclude did not deprive appellants of their right to a fair trial, Judge Hogan's management of the proceedings was admirable. We affirm in all respects, except that we remand Bell's sentence for compliance with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(c)(3). I. VARIANCE: SINGLE VERSUS MULTIPLE CONSPIRACIES

Each appellant argues that the evidence at trial varied impermissibly from the allegations of the indictment, and that the resultant prejudice deprived him of his right to a fair trial.

A. Permissible Variance

A variance between the allegations of the indictment and the proof at trial constitutes grounds for reversal only if the appellant proves (1) that the evidence at trial established facts materially variant from those alleged in the indictment, and (2) that the variance caused substantial prejudice. See, e.g., United States v. Caporale, 806 F.2d 1487, 1499-1500 (11th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1021, 107 S. Ct. 3265, 97 L. Ed. 2d 763 (1987). In a conspiracy prosecution, for example, the appellant may prove (1) that the evidence established the existence of multiple conspiracies, rather than the one conspiracy alleged in the indictment, and (2) that because of the multiplicity of defendants and conspiracies, the jury was substantially likely to transfer evidence from one conspiracy to a defendant involved in another. Id.

The existence of a single conspiracy or multiple conspiracies is primarily a question of fact for the jury. E.g., United States v. Erwin, 793 F.2d 656, 662 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 991, 107 S. Ct. 589, 93 L. Ed. 2d 590 (1986); United States v. Molt, 772 F.2d 366, 369 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1081, 89 L. Ed. 2d 715, 106 S. Ct. 1458 (1986); United States v. Potamitis, 739 F.2d 784, 787 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 934, 83 L. Ed. 2d 269, 105 S. Ct. 332 (1984). The verdict must be upheld if the evidence adequately supports a finding that a single conspiracy existed. Potamitis, 739 F.2d at 788; United States v. Arbelaez, 719 F.2d 1453, 1457-58 (9th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1255, 104 S. Ct. 3543, 82 L. Ed. 2d 847 (1984); cf. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 99 S. Ct. 2781 (1979) (verdict upheld if any rational trier of fact could have found elements of offense beyond reasonable doubt).

B. Establishing a Single Conspiracy

Appellants Bell and Burns urge us to follow the analysis of conspiracies used in Kotteakos v. United States, 328 U.S. 750, 90 L. Ed. 1557, 66 S. Ct. 1239 (1946). Kotteakos involved multiple conspiracies to defraud the Federal Housing Administration. The key figure, Brown, arranged with various defendants to submit false loan applications. None of the applicants had any connection with the others, although each had a relationship with Brown. Nevertheless, the government charged all the applicants with participation in a single conspiracy. On appeal, the government acknowledged that the proof established multiple conspiracies. Brown was the hub of a wheel, and the various applicants were the spokes. Without a rim to enclose the spokes, however, the evidence made out multiple conspiracies, not the single one alleged. 328 U.S. at 755. The government granted this much, but merely argued that the variance was harmless, a position that the Supreme Court rejected.

The wheel metaphor has not been strictly applied as the method of analysis for all conspiracies, and particularly not for drug conspiracies. Rather, courts have utilized a chain metaphor.

An example is United States v. Gantt, 199 U.S. App. D.C. 249, 617 F.2d 831 (D.C. Cir. 1980). The evidence established that the appellants had travelled from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles to purchase narcotics. Other evidence established that the narcotics were later sold in D.C. The defendants claimed that these transactions were entirely distinct, establishing two conspiracies. The court disagreed. Certain defendants went to California to purchase narcotics, others prepared the drugs for sale in D.C., others distributed the drugs, and still others actually sold them. "The activities of each member and group in the organization meshed with those of the other members and groups. In short, the evidence disclosed a classic example of a narcotics sale and distribution conspiracy. . . . In those cases [relied on by appellants, e.g., Kotteakos ], the evidence showed 'wheel-type' conspiracies, whereas the conspiracy here was the 'chain-type' conspiracy common in narcotics cases." 617 F.2d at 846 (citations omitted).

Under the chain analysis, the government need not prove a direct connection between all the conspirators. A single conspiracy may be established when each conspirator knows of the existence of the larger conspiracy and the necessity for other participants, even if he is ignorant of their precise identities. When the conspirators form a chain, each is likely to know that other conspirators are required. E.g., United States v. Andrus, 775 F.2d 825, 840-41 (7th Cir. 1985); United States v. Inadi, 748 F.2d 812, 817 (3d Cir. 1984) (citing W. LAFAVE & A. SCOTT, HANDBOOK ON CRIMINAL LAW 480-81 (1972)), rev'd on other grounds, 475 U.S. 387, 89 L. Ed. 2d 390, 106 S. Ct. 1121 (1986).

The chain metaphor, while helpful, does not end our analysis. The existence of a chain is only an aid in answering the ultimate question: whether a single conspiracy was demonstrated. A single conspiracy is proven if the evidence establishes that each conspirator had the specific intent to further the common unlawful objective. United States v. Ras, 713 F.2d 311, 314 (7th Cir. 1983) (whether defendants "knowingly embraced a common criminal objective"); see also Andrus, 775 F.2d at 840 (applying Ras to chain conspiracy); cf. United States v. Haldeman, 181 U.S. App. D.C. 254, 559 F.2d 31, 112 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (specific intent to further unlawful object of conspiracy must be shown), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 933, 97 S. Ct. 2641, 53 L. Ed. 2d 250 (1977).

The existence of a chain helps us determine both the unlawful objective and the conspirators' intent. Unlike a wheel conspiracy, in which the interest of each spoke is unrelated to the interests of the other spokes, each link in the chain may rely upon the other links in furtherance of the common interest. The street dealer relies upon his supplier; the supplier relies upon his supplier; and so on. The existence of such a "vertically integrated, loose-knit combination," United States v. Bynum, 485 F.2d 490, 495-96 (2d Cir. 1973), vacated & remanded on other grounds, 417 U.S. 903, 94 S. Ct. 2598, 41 L. Ed. 2d 209 (1974), may raise the inference that each conspirator has agreed with the others (some whose specific identity may be unknown) to further a common unlawful objective, e.g., the distribution of narcotics.

Chain analysis must be used with care. Even in a vertically integrated combination, certain players may have performed activities wholly unrelated to the aims of the conspiracy. These unrelated activities may not be attributed to the co-conspirators, Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 647-48, 90 L. Ed. 1489, 66 S. Ct. 1180 (1946), and those with whom the "freelancing" conspirator dealt do not necessarily become members of the main conspiracy. Thus, even if we determine that a chain conspiracy exists, we may still conclude that certain actions were outside the chain and formed a separate conspiracy.

In determining whether the conspiracy was single or multiple, and which acts were committed in furtherance of the common conspiracy, we are aided by those courts that have isolated a variety of factors. The most important of these is whether the conspirators share a common goal, such as the possession and distribution of narcotics for profit. Caporale, 806 F.2d at 1500; United States v. Dickey, 736 F.2d 571, 582 (10th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1188, 105 S. Ct. 957, 83 L. Ed. 2d 964 (1985). Another is the degree of dependence inherent in the conspiracy. United States v. Cerro, 775 F.2d 908, 914 (7th Cir. 1985); United States v. Adamo, 742 F.2d 927, 932-33 (6th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1193, 105 S. Ct. 971, 83 L. Ed. 2d 975 (1985); Dickey, 736 F.2d at 582. Some courts have permitted the jury to infer the conspirators' knowledge of their link to other conspirators from the nature of a narcotics conspiracy. United States v. Behrens, 689 F.2d 154, 160 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1088, 103 S. Ct. 573, 74 L. Ed. 2d 934 (1982); United States v. Smith, 609 F.2d 1294, 1300 (9th Cir. 1979); United States v. Burman, 584 F.2d 1354, 1356-57 (4th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1118, 59 L. Ed. 2d 77, 99 S. Ct. 1026 (1979); United States v. Moten, 564 F.2d 620, 624-25 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 942, 98 S. Ct. 438, 54 L. Ed. 2d 304 (1977); United States v. Taylor, 562 F.2d 1345, 1352 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 432 U.S. 909, 53 L. Ed. 2d 1083, 97 S. Ct. 2958 (1977). For this reason, cases relied upon by appellants dealing with non-narcotics conspiracies, e.g., United States v. Camiel, 689 F.2d 31 (3d Cir. 1982); United States v. Butler, 494 F.2d 1246 (10th Cir. 1974); United States v. Varelli, 407 F.2d 735 (7th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1040, 92 S. Ct. 1311, 31 L. Ed. 2d 581 (1972), are of limited relevance. A final factor of lesser significance is the overlap of participants in the various operations claimed to comprise a single conspiracy. Caporale, 806 F.2d at 1500; Erwin, 793 F.2d at 662-63. A single conspiracy conviction has been upheld, however, despite a "lack of significant overlap of some participants" when strong evidence established that a main player coordinated the narcotics importation and distribution enterprise. United States v. Champion, 813 F.2d 1154, 1166-67 (11th Cir. 1987).

C. Sufficiency of the Evidence of a Single Conspiracy

In this case, the evidence presented to the jury was sufficient to establish the existence of a chain conspiracy whose aim was to accumulate wealth by distributing cocaine. The identity and relationship of the major players in the conspiracy is summarized in the chart below. All appellants shared the conspiracy's objects and knew of their dependence on other conspirators, even though they may not have known the precise identity of all the other conspirators. Each appellant played a vital role in the conspiracy's success. Burns facilitated purchase, Tarantino and Bell facilitated distribution, and Black and Tarantino facilitated laundering of the profits into usable form. As will become apparent, however, each of the appellants also played other roles in the conspiracy, and all knew of the collaboration of others.

We hold that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that the appellants joined in a single conspiracy. The defendants' activities relating to the purchase, distribution, and laundering of funds did not constitute separate conspiracies, but were undertaken in furtherance of the overarching objectives of the single conspiracy. Accordingly, we find no basis for appellants' claim that they have been substantially prejudiced by a material variance between the evidence introduced at trial and the facts alleged in the indictment.

*fn1. Burns

Strickland was introduced to Burns by Black, Tr. 123-29, with whom Burns had had numerous prior dealings. Tr. 5391-93. At their first meeting in Miami, Burns asked Strickland if he was in town to buy cocaine. An extensive discussion of the cocaine trade ensued. Burns stated that he had confidence in Strickland because of their mutual friendship with Black. Tr. 166-71. Strickland returned to Burns' apartment the next day, when Burns introduced him to two men, Gene Cello and an unidentified Colombian, who could supply cocaine. Burns offered to broker cocaine deals for Strickland for a commission of $2,000 per kilogram. Strickland then purchased a single kilo from Cello and the Colombian, which was transported to and distributed in Washington, D.C. Tr. 173-77.

After a subsequent purchase from Cello produced poor quality cocaine, Burns introduced Strickland to Armando Marulanda, a major Colombian importer. Marulanda offered to sell Strickland ten kilos of cocaine on credit, with a $2,000 per kilo commission to Burns. Marulanda's extension of credit to Strickland was a turning point in Strickland's cocaine trade. Never before had he been able to obtain such large quantities on consignment. Tr. 182-91. Burns thus was essential to the expansion and success of the conspiracy, and he benefitted directly by receiving commissions on each sale by Marulanda to Strickland.

Burns apprised Black of these transactions. Tr. 323-34. Strickland's purchases from Marulanda and Marcos Cadavid, an associate of Marulanda's, escalated over the course of the next months, which increased Burns' commissions. Tr. 197-213.

Soon after the first transaction, Strickland introduced his partner and co-conspirator, Steve Kupits, to Burns. Strickland stated that he and Kupits were distributing the cocaine "in different parts of the country." Burns responded: "Fine, no problem." Tr. 195-96. Burns knew of and endorsed the nationwide scope of the conspiracy.

Burns also was directly involved with the other conspirators. When Ribera, one of Strickland's distributors, took over Strickland's customers in the D.C. area while Strickland took an extended "vacation," Burns dealt directly with Ribera. Under Strickland's prodding, Burns "fronted" cocaine to Ribera, i.e., gave him cocaine on consignment. Burns also supplied Ribera with a courier to transport cocaine to the conspiracy's distributors in California. Tr. 1769-72, 1791. Burns himself directly provided the California conspirators with three kilos of cocaine. Tr. 2223-25. Burns also dealt with the Texas conspirators working with Kupits. Tr. 272-75. There was even evidence linking Burns to Tarantino's plan to launder money by investing it in a Haitian casino, Tr. 472, and Black's plan to launder money through investments in a New Jersey casino (the "Gateway Project"). Tr. 353-55.

The evidence was sufficient for a jury to conclude that Burns was an essential link in the distribution chain. He shared the conspiracy's goals, and knew of the nature and scope of the enterprise.

Burns argues that the government's evidence was based entirely on perjured testimony, a claim which the jury was entitled to reject. Brief for Burns at 7-21. He also argues that every act of the conspirators was a separate conspiracy of which he was no part. Id. at 37. The evidence was sufficient, however, for the jury to conclude that Burns was an essential link in a single chain.

We have considered carefully Burns' claim that prosecutorial misconduct "permeated the entire proceedings." Id. at 21. To a large extent, Burns' claim reiterates his other assignments of error, e.g., use of perjured testimony, attempt to deprive Burns of his " pro se status," and suppression of evidence favorable to him and material to guilt or punishment under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963). We discuss each of these arguments separately elsewhere in this opinion. We merely note here that we have found no obvious perjury on any material matter, much less knowing use of perjured testimony by the prosecutor. See Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 79 L. Ed. 791, 55 S. Ct. 340 (1935) (prosecutor's knowing use of material perjured testimony, along with deliberate suppression of impeachment evidence, justifies collateral attack). The prosecutor was entitled to argue his interpretation of the evidence, and the jury was entitled to accept that interpretation.

*fn2. Black

Strickland met Black after Black indirectly received a $13,000 loan from Strickland. At their first meeting, Strickland informed Black that he was a marijuana dealer, upon which Black suggested that Strickland meet Burns (who later proved to be a major cocaine broker). Tr. 128. Black urged Strickland to transform the loan into an investment in Black's Gateway Project, and to increase the amount of the investment to $70,000. Black also stated he could help Strickland "clean up" his money, that is to say, to disguise its illegal source. Tr. 129-30. Strickland soon invested a total of $140,000 in the Gateway Project, all of it in cash. Tr. 5025-26. Later, Black asked Strickland to "come out of retirement" to generate an additional $800,000, and a further cash payment by Strickland of $500,000 followed shortly. Tr. 362-69.

Black claims that he was unaware of the illicit source of Strickland's funds. Brief for Black at 24-28. The jury was entitled to infer, however, that Black was well aware that Strickland's investment represented his cocaine profits: according to Strickland's testimony, (1) Black knew from the first that Strickland was involved in the drug trade; (2) Black introduced Strickland to Burns, a major cocaine broker; (3) Black knew of the developing relationship between Strickland and Burns (Black told Strickland he had heard from Burns that "things are going well with you two" (Tr. 323-24)); (4) Black touted the Gateway Project as a good way for Strickland to "clean up" his money (Tr. 129-30); (5) Strickland provided huge sums of cash to Black (Tr. 362-69), a fact that should have at least aroused suspicion (cf. United States v. Nicholson, 677 F.2d 706, 709 (9th Cir. 1982), holding that large cash transactions without documentation, combined with refusal to describe investment, established sufficient circumstantial evidence to infer conspiracy); and (6) Black twice arranged for attorneys to represent conspirators arrested on cocaine charges (Tr. 668-69, 672).

Black was also involved in a series of financial transactions that the jury was entitled to conclude were "washes." Black offered to issue a check for cash provided by Strickland in order to permit Strickland to show a legitimate source of income. Black twice issued a Dunbar Corporation check for $3,000 in exchange for $3,000 cash (proceeds of cocaine sales) provided by Strickland. Tr. 338-43. Black also washed $60,000 to permit the financing of a land development project of Strickland, Kupits, and Maddux. Tr. 343-48.

Two final pieces of evidence are decisive in establishing Black's involvement in the conspiracy, if credited by the jury. First, in 1980, Black asked Strickland if he was still dealing in drugs. Strickland said he was not, because of a capital shortage. Black offered to arrange the necessary financing. Tr. 426-28. Second, in 1981, Black asked Strickland whether the Texas federal grand jury's investigation centered on the land development plan only, or if it also concerned the drug network. Because of the two $60,000 washes he provided in connection with that project, he feared he might be indicted. Tr. 397-403.

We have little trouble concluding that the jury was entitled to find that Black knew of the nature and scope of the conspiracy, joined in its aims, and facilitated its success.

Black further claims that even if he knew of the conspiracy, he only dealt in an "article of free commerce, i.e., money." Brief for Black at 28. He argues that a "conspiracy conviction under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846 requires more evidence of involvement in the conspiracy than mere handling of the proceeds of an illegal drug scheme." Brief for Black at 29. In a related argument, Black maintains that money laundering is not a proscribed offense under section 841; laundering is specifically criminalized by other statutes (e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 1952(a) (1982), 1956(a)(1) (Supp. IV 1986), 1962(a) (1982), and 21 U.S.C. § 854 (Supp. III 1985)), under which Black was not charged. Id. at 31-37.

This claim misconstrues the nature of the conspiracy as charged. The conspiratorial agreement was proscribed by section 841 because one of its essential aims was the distribution of cocaine. The laundering of funds was a part of the plan to distribute cocaine; the conspirators, including Black, well knew that the cocaine money had to be "cleaned up" to be useful to them. Tr. 129-30. Black's aid in laundering the cocaine profits thus facilitated the attainment of the conspiracy's goals; money launderers play an essential part in a narcotics chain conspiracy. See, e.g., United States v. Dela Espriella, 781 F.2d 1432, 1436 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Orozco-Prada, 732 F.2d 1076, 1080 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 845, 105 S. Ct. 154, 83 L. Ed. 2d 92 (1984); United States v. Metz, 608 F.2d 147, 153 (5th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 821, 66 L. Ed. 2d 24, 101 S. Ct. 80 (1980). The government is not required to prove that every act taken in furtherance of the conspiracy is illegal, much less that it is specifically proscribed by the conspiracy statute. See Braverman v. United States, 317 U.S. 49, 53, 87 L. Ed. 23, 63 S. Ct. 99 (1942).

*fn3. Tarantino

Tarantino participated in two aspects of the conspiracy: the distribution of cocaine and the laundering of proceeds.

Tarantino's involvement in the distribution of cocaine for Strickland began in the summer of 1980, when he introduced Strickland to Sonny Croughn, with the remark that Croughn could "sell a lot of coke." Tr. 438-40. Strickland agreed to provide cocaine to Croughn through Tarantino. Tr. 444-46, 458. Following a phone call from Tarantino, Strickland travelled from the District of Columbia to New Jersey to deliver cocaine to Croughn. Strickland "fronted" the cocaine to Croughn, who later paid Strickland through Tarantino. Tr. 457-61. Similar transactions followed. Tr. 462-66. In some of these, Strickland was accompanied by other members of the conspiracy, e.g., Baker (Tr. 2412-19) and Kohn (Tr. 477-78). In all of these instances, Tarantino was present at the delivery of the cocaine.

Tarantino also was aware of the national scope of the conspiracy. At the end of 1980, Strickland called Croughn from Houston and asked if Croughn could dispose of an excess kilo of cocaine. Tarantino immediately called back and arranged for a courier to pick up the cocaine. Strickland met the courier, and Croughn and Tarantino confirmed the delivery. Tr. 479-83.

Tarantino's second level of involvement was his role in attempting to launder the proceeds of the conspiracy's cocaine sales. Strickland first met Tarantino in connection with Black's casino project (the Gateway Project; see supra slip op. at 14). At first, Strickland concealed from Tarantino the source of the funds he was investing in the Gateway Project. But when Tarantino met Strickland in Las Vegas in 1980, he told Strickland he was aware that Strickland and Burns had been selling drugs. He thanked Strickland for his help in supporting the Gateway Project, and later advised him to make further investments in the casino. Tr. 437-38, 1208, 375-76. At a subsequent meeting in New Jersey concerning the Gateway Project, Tarantino introduced Strickland to Croughn as a man who could "sell a lot of coke." Tr. 438-40. Tarantino at least knew of, and arguably urged and facilitated Strickland's investment in the Gateway venture. Given Tarantino's knowledge of the nature of Strickland's business, he also would have known that Strickland's investments in Gateway were made to clean up his money. Tarantino knew of and condoned this aspect of the conspiracy's goals.

Tarantino managed a separate casino project in Haiti. He encouraged Strickland to invest in this project as well and credited the proceeds of Strickland's sales to Croughn to the Haitian project. Tr. 470, 475-77. Strickland invested $300,000 in the Haitian project, thinking it a good laundering device. Tr. 470-71.

Tarantino was familiar with other major players in the conspiracy. He knew Black through the Gateway Project. Tr. 434-36. He was acquainted with Bell, and was working with him on a separate investment project. Tr. 538-538A. Tarantino and Kohn, the conspiracy's bookkeeper, also had extensive discussions concerning the Haitian and other potential investment projects. Tr. 521, 3302-10.

Tarantino argues that, at most, the evidence established a conspiracy between Strickland, Croughn, and Tarantino to distribute cocaine, and an agreement by Strickland to invest $300,000 in the Haitian project. This conspiracy, says Tarantino, did not involve Black and Burns and was therefore totally separate from the conspiracy alleged in the indictment. Brief for Tarantino at 44. The jury concluded otherwise, however, and the evidence is sufficient to support its verdict. Tarantino was aware of Strickland's acquisition and distribution of cocaine; it is immaterial that he did not know the precise identities of all the other conspirators. As we discuss elsewhere in this opinion, Black and Burns were sufficiently aware of and entered into the goals of the conspiracy, even if they did not know the full extent of Strickland's dealings with Tarantino.

*fn4. Bell

The evidence clearly established that Bell was the conspiracy's major distributor of cocaine in Washington, D.C. See, e.g., Tr. 98-118, 526-29. Bell does not seriously dispute this now, but claims he was unaware of other aspects of Strickland's operations, including the distribution of cocaine elsewhere in the nation and the laundering of the cocaine profits. Brief for Bell at 35-39.

The government was not obliged to prove that Bell knew every detail of the conspiracy. All that is required is that the evidence establish that he knew others were involved and that his own benefits depended upon the success of the entire venture. See United States v. Sisca, 503 F.2d 1337, 1345 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1008, 42 L. Ed. 2d 283, 95 S. Ct. 328 (1974) (cited in Brief for Bell at 35), and supra slip op. at 8-10.

Bell had extensive dealings not only with Strickland, but also with other players in the conspiracy's distribution chain. He received cocaine deliveries from Ribera (Tr. 1726, 1740-43), acted as a money courier between Strickland and Kastrenakes (Tr. 532-33), and distributed cocaine supplied by Kastrenakes (Tr. 535-36). Bell was at least acquainted with Kupits and Kohn in Texas (Tr. 3269-70) and Tarantino in New Jersey (Tr. 538-538A). From this evidence, a jury could conclude that Bell was aware of the nationwide conspiracy and his dependence on its continued success. The existence of multiple distribution points does not, in itself, establish multiple conspiracies. See, e.g., United States v. Jenkins, 779 F.2d 606, 616-17 (11th Cir. 1986); United States v. Bibbero, 749 F.2d 581, 587 (9th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1103, 85 L. Ed. 2d 847, 105 S. Ct. 2330 (1985); United States v. Vila, 599 F.2d 21, 24 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 837, 62 L. Ed. 2d 48, 100 S. Ct. 73 (1979).

Finally, although the evidence did not establish that Bell directly participated in the laundering phase of the conspiracy, he was aware that the continued success of the conspiracy depended upon effective means of "cleaning up" its funds. The laundering of funds was a further link in the chain of which Bell was a part, and the conspirators' acts in laundering the funds were thus attributable to Bell. Pinkerton, 328 U.S. at 646-47. II. SEVERANCE

Each appellant argues that the trial court should have granted his motion for severance. We review the denial of a motion to sever under an abuse of discretion standard. United States v. Butler, 262 U.S. App. D.C. 129, 822 F.2d 1191, 1194 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

A. Disparity in Evidence

Severance is required in two situations. First, when the evidence against the other defendants was "far more damaging," the prejudicial spillover may have deprived a defendant of a fair trial. Id. (quoting United States v. Sampol, 204 U.S. App. D.C. 349, 636 F.2d 621, 645 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). The trial judge is usually in the best position to evaluate the resulting degree of prejudice, and jury instructions generally are sufficient to minimize any disparities in evidence. Butler, 822 F.2d at 1194; United States v. Wright, 251 U.S. App. D.C. 276, 783 F.2d 1091, 1096 (D.C. Cir. 1986).

Although each appellant claims the government's case against him was far weaker than that against the other appellants, the evidence was not so dramatically disparate that the judge abused his discretion in denying the motions to sever. We have rarely held that a district court improperly denied a motion to sever. In United States v. Mardian, 178 U.S. App. D.C. 207, 546 F.2d 973 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (en banc), Robert Mardian was tried along with the other Watergate conspirators. Mardian's participation in the conspiracy was brief, and the evidence against him was slight. Nevertheless, we held that severance was not required until Mardian's lawyer became ill during the trial. 546 F.2d at 979-80.

In Sampol, 204 U.S. App. D.C. 349, 636 F.2d 621, Ignacio Sampol was tried only for misprision of a felony and making false statements, whereas his co-defendants were tried for conspiracy and murder. Because of the quantity and inflammatory nature of the testimony against the co-defendants, the risk of a transference of their guilt was significant. Moreover, the testimony created a false impression that Sampol was involved in the conspiracy. 636 F.2d at 644-48.

In United States v. Bruner, 212 U.S. App. D.C. 36, 657 F.2d 1278 (D.C. Cir. 1981), however, the kingpin of the conspiracy was tried along with his confederates. Lynch directed the operation, in which groups of overweight women were sent to doctors in various cities to obtain prescriptions for Dilaudid and Preludin. These drugs were later illegally resold. Although the evidence against Lynch was "substantial," there was also "independent and substantial evidence" that the co-defendants participated in the conspiracy. The disparity in the weight of the evidence was not so dramatic as to require a severance. 657 F.2d at 1290-91.

We also distinguished Mardian and Sampol in United States v. Sutton, 255 U.S. App. D.C. 307, 801 F.2d 1346 (D.C. Cir. 1986). There, we held the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying a motion for severance when the charges required the "presentation of much of the same evidence, testimony of the same witnesses, and involve[d] two defendants who ...

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