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Smith v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 5, 2015

ISAAC JEROME SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil Case No. RWT-14-213

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Pending is Petitioner Isaac Jerome Smith's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Upon review of the papers filed, and for the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Smith's Motion.

BACKGROUND

From 2005 through 2007, the leadership of the Metro Dream Homes ("MDH") program made extraordinary promises to investors. For an upfront investment of $50, 000, not only would MDH make an investor's monthly mortgage payment, but would also pay off the investor's mortgage in full in five to seven years, no matter how much remained on the investor's mortgage. ECF No. 726 at 1. MDH supposedly used investor funds to purchase revenue generating equipment, consisting of ATM/check-cashing machines, point-of-sale vending machines, and "electronic billboards, " i.e. flat-screen televisions that displayed advertisements. Id. Investors were told that these machines would generate the massive revenues required to meet MDH's massive obligations.[1] Id. at 2.

Although MDH did purchase some of this equipment, it generated only nominal revenue. Id. In reality, MDH relied entirely on new investor funds to pay its obligations to investors. Id. MDH was thus a classic Ponzi scheme, and like all Ponzi schemes, it collapsed. The collapse was precipitated in August 2007 by a series of negative articles in the Washington Post, and furthered by a cease-and-desist order issued by the Maryland Securities Commissioner prohibiting MDH from enrolling new investors. Id. at 2-3. Since the fuel driving any "successful" Ponzi scheme is new investor money that can be used to pay off existing investors and continue the mirage of a healthy revenue-generating enterprise, this action by Maryland inevitably led to MDH's collapse. Id. MDH was placed into receivership by a Maryland court. Id. at 3.

Smith was initially an early investor in MDH. Id. at 1. Shortly after investing, however, he changed his status from "future victim" to "future defendant" by getting hired as president of MDH, and enriching himself at the expense of other MDH investors, despite his knowledge that MDH was a fraud. Id. at 1-4.

Smith and his codefendants were indicted on April 22, 2009. ECF No. 1. Smith was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, fifteen substantive counts of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering. Id. Smith proceeded to trial, along with codefendants Michael Hickson and Alvita Gunn, on January 11, 2011. ECF No. 258. After a lengthy trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. ECF No. 337. All of the defendants appealed, and the appeals were consolidated. The Fourth Circuit affirmed this Court on January 24, 2013. United States v. Hickson, 506 Fed.App'x 227 (4th Cir. 2013).

Smith filed a § 2255 petition on January 27, 2014, ECF No. 701, and filed a second petition on January 30, 2014. The only difference between these two petitions appears to be that the second one was signed by Smith.[2] Smith asserts the following grounds for relief:

1. Ineffective assistance of counsel where counsel failed to argue on appeal that an email should not have been admitted due to attorney-client privilege;
2. Ineffective assistance of counsel where counsel failed to object to a government witness's testimony that overstated Smith's salary from MDH by $1.2 million;
3. Ineffective assistance of counsel where counsel failed to argue that Smith's money laundering conviction should have merged with his wire fraud conviction.

Id. at 4-10.

ANALYSIS

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in custody may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, "claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), the Court may deny the motion without a hearing if "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the ...


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