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United States v. Bruno

    Brief Fact Summary. In a single narcotics conspiracy prosecution, smugglers, middlemen and two groups of retailers in different cities were all grouped together. The Defendants, Bruno and various others (Defendants), maintained that the evidence showed a number of separate conspiracies as opposed to a single common conspiracy.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where one group of alleged co-conspirators has no contact with another group of alleged co-conspirators, the presence of a common conspiracy is still possible insomuch as the one group can have foreseen the participation of the other group for the criminal enterprise to be successful.

    Facts. Smugglers, middlemen, and retailers were grouped together in an indictment as part of a common conspiracy to unlawfully traffic in narcotics. The Defendants contested the charge of a single common conspiracy insomuch as the smugglers had no contact with the retailers and the retailers had no contact with the smugglers. Instead, they contended, there was a variety of distinct conspiracies unrelated to each other.

    Issue. Is it necessary that all co-conspirators have had contact with each other at some point during the course of the conspiracy for a conspiracy to exist?

    Held. No.
    The conspirators at one end of the chain of the conspiracy knew that the unlawful business could not stop with their buyers (middlemen). Conversely, the conspirators at the other end of the chain (retailers) knew that the unlawful business had not begun with their sellers. Insomuch as each group could foresee the role the other would necessarily play in completing the illegal transaction, a single common conspiracy can be shown to have existed – even in the absence of evidence that all co-conspirators had had contact with each other at some point.

    Neither does it matter that there were buyers separately for New York and a Texas & Louisiana group. For the smugglers, it was of no consequence who the middlemen sold to. For the retailers, it was of no consequence from who the middlemen purchased. All that mattered was the success of the criminal enterprise.


    Discussion. The Defendants in this case tried to evade implication in a larger common conspiracy on the basis of lack of contact with other alleged co-conspirators. However, the court indicated contact with co-conspirators was not required to establish a common conspiracy provided the role of one group of conspirators could be foreseen by another group of conspirators for the criminal enterprise to be successful.


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