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United States v. Votrobek

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JASON VOTROBEK, ROLAND CASTELLANOS, Defendants-Appellants.

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia D. C. Docket No. 4:11-cr-00022-RLV-WEJ-3

          Before WILSON and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges, and ROYAL, [*] District Judge.

          ROYAL, District Judge

         A jury convicted Appellants Jason Votrobek and Roland Castellanos of conspiring to distribute drugs, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; conspiring to launder money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h); and substantive charges of money laundering and maintaining a place for unlawful drug distribution. The district court sentenced both to 180 months in confinement, followed by three years of supervised release. Appellants challenge their convictions. After careful review, we AFFIRM.

         BACKGROUND

         Appellants' convictions center on their involvement in a "pill mill" business.[1] Appellants learned how to operate a pill mill clinic from Zachary Rose, who owned and operated three clinics in Jacksonville, Florida. Indeed, Appellants met each other while working on the staff at one of these clinics, Jacksonville Pain and Urgent Care (Jacksonville Pain). However, once law enforcement began to investigate Rose's Florida clinics in early 2010, Appellants left Jacksonville Pain and established their own clinic, Atlanta Medical Group (AMG) in Cartersville, Georgia. AMG soon hired Dr. James Chapman as its prescribing physician.

         Appellants operated AMG in the fashion typical of pill mills. Generally, AMG patients would pay about $300 in cash for a cursory examination by Dr. Chapman, whose prescriptions for pain medications were processed by AMG's in-house pharmacy. To pass drug tests, patients frequently brought balloons containing urine and bribed AMG staff. Security guards searched patients for weapons. Moreover, Appellants charged more for prescriptions than AMG's books reflected and purchased luxury vehicles with the undocumented cash.

         As is also typical of these operations, nearby tenants soon began to complain to AMG's landlord that unkempt patients arrived before business hours in cars with out-of-state license plates and loitered in the parking lot. Local pharmacies refused to fill AMG's prescriptions because the patients did not appear to be in any pain. In May 2010, after a traffic stop of four AMG patients carrying large amounts of prescription narcotics, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began investigating AMG.

         Although Appellant Votrobek had left Florida to open AMG in Georgia, his involvement in Rose's Florida clinics caught up with him. On April 20, 2012, in the Middle District of Florida, a Grand Jury indicted Votrobek for conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and Alprazolam not for a legitimate medical purpose and conspiracy to launder money. After a fifteen-day trial, however, a jury found Votrobek not guilty.

         Votrobek's respite from conviction was fleeting. Less than two months after his acquittal in Florida, on June 25, 2013, a Grand Jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned a thirty-two count indictment against Appellants Votrobek and Castellanos, as well as Dr. Chapman, regarding their involvement in AMG. Pertinent to this appeal, the indictment charged Appellants with conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, Hydrocodone with Acetominophen (Lorcet), and Alprazolam (Xanax) for other than a legitimate medical purpose; conspiracy to launder money; and substantive counts of money laundering and maintaining a place for unlawful drug distribution.

         After almost four weeks of trial, a jury convicted Appellants on all counts.[2]The district court sentenced each to a total of 180 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Additionally, each was required to pay $200, 000 in fines and forfeit to the United States a monetary judgment in the amount of $3, 975, 308.

         On appeal, Votrobek and Castellanos each raise two issues. Votrobek argues the district court (1) committed plain error by not dismissing the Georgia conspiracy charges on Double Jeopardy grounds, and (2) assuming the conspiracy charges were barred by Double Jeopardy, committed plain error by not dismissing his substantive convictions based on prejudicial spillover. Castellanos argues the district court (1) erred by refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing concerning the affidavits supporting the four wiretaps, and (2) abused its discretion by refusing to instruct the jury on the entrapment-by-estoppel defense. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm both convictions.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Double Jeopardy

         Votrobek first argues his conspiracy charges in the Northern District of Georgia arose from the same conspiracy for which he was acquitted in the Middle District of Florida and thus are barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause. We disagree.

         Because Votrobek failed to raise this argument below, he forfeited his right to a Double Jeopardy defense, and we review for plain error. United States v. Lewis, 492 F.3d 1219, 1222 (11th Cir. 2007) (en banc). Under this standard, an appellant must establish "(1) error, (2) that is plain, and (3) that affects substantial rights." United States v. Rodriguez, 398 F.3d 1291, 1298 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 631, 122 S.Ct. 1781, 1785 (2002)). If the appellant meets all three conditions, "an appellate court may then exercise its discretion to notice a ...


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