910 F.2d 198 (5th Cir. 1990), 89-1733, United States v. Corcuera-Valor

Docket Nº:89-1733.
Citation:910 F.2d 198
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Angel CORCUERA-VALOR and Jose G. Berlanga-Garcia, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:August 20, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 198

910 F.2d 198 (5th Cir. 1990)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Angel CORCUERA-VALOR and Jose G. Berlanga-Garcia,


No. 89-1733.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 20, 1990

Arvel (Rod) Ponton, III, El Paso, Tex., for defendant-appellant Corcuera-Valor.

Charles Louis Roberts, Joseph (Sib) Abraham, Jr., El Paso, Tex., for defendant-appellant Berlanga-Garcia.

Michael W. McCrum, Le Roy Morgan, Jahn, Asst. U.S. Attys., Helen M. Eversberg, U.S. Atty., San Antonio, Tex., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before THORNBERRY, GEE, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

GEE, Circuit Judge:

The United States indicted and convicted appellants Angel Corcuera-Valor and Jose

Page 199

G. Berlanga-Garcia under the part of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 542 making it a federal offense to "enter or introduce into the commerce of the United States any imported merchandise by means of any fraudulent or false invoice...." We reaffirm that this part of Sec. 542 includes a materiality element; and because the evidence at trial did not show that the false invoices submitted by the defendants were the actual "means" by which their goods were introduced into the United States, we must reverse their convictions.


In 1984, Mose and Angelynn Haralson founded HARCO, a United States clothing manufacturing business. As a part of their operations, the Haralsons shipped cut fabric into Mexico for assembly at manufacturing plants colloquially known as "maquiladoras". 1 After the maquiladoras assembled the fabric into shirts, the Haralsons imported the finished goods back into the United States.

Defendant Corcuera-Valor owned Industrias Corcuera del Vestido in Torreon, Mexico, and defendant Berlanga-Garcia owned Maquilas y Confeciones Bronco S.A., both maquiladoras that sewed garments for HARCO. The Haralsons negotiated with each defendant for a particular contract price for their assembling work, and then together with them conspired to submit invoices to the United States Customs Service which falsely stated a contract price substantially lower than the actual price. Customs agents used this lower price to calculate the duty owed by HARCO on the imported goods. HARCO would then issue each defendant two checks--one for the amount of the price declared on the...

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