United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on pro se Petitioner Oscar Zaraut-Correa's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody ("§ 2255 Motion") (ECF No. 855). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the § 2255 Motion.
a. Factual Background
This case relates to Petitioner Oscar Zaraut-Correa's involvement in a Fraudulent Document Enterprise ("FDE") that specialized in selling high-quality false identification cards to illegal aliens in the United States. At the time of a nationwide takedown on November 18, 2010, the FDE had 19 cells in 11 states, including 3 in Virginia. The entire operation was supervised within the United States by Israel Cruz Millan ("Millan"), also known as "El Muerto." In each city where the organization operated, Millan placed a cell manager to supervise a number of "runners, " the lower level members of the organization who distributed business cards advertising the organization's services and helped facilitate transactions with customers.
The cost of fraudulent documents varied depending on the location, with counterfeit Resident Alien and Social Security cards typically selling from $150 to $200. Each cell allegedly maintained detailed sales records and divided the proceeds between the runner, the cell manager, and the upper level managers in Mexico.
At the time of his arrest on November 18, 2010, Petitioner worked as a runner for the Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia cell. In that capacity, Petitioner sought out clients for the FDE by distributing business cards, known as "18s, " which advertised his services and contact information. Petitioner would then meet with a prospective client, gather the necessary information to make a fraudulent document, and relay the information to the cell manager for the final step of printing the identification. Petitioner generated significant revenue for the FDE in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area.
The investigation also revealed that Petitioner played a key role in the planned attack of a rival document vender in September 2010. On September 18, 2010, Petitioner and his co-defendants were preparing to assault a competitor and steal his printer. However, the assault was canceled when Petitioner and his conspirators realized that the target was closely aligned with one of the enterprise's allies.
b. Procedural Background
On December 14, 2010, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned the first superseding two-count indictment (ECF No. 95) against Petitioner, charging him with (1) conspiracy to possess, produce, and transfer false identification documents and possess a document-making implement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028(f) ("Count One"); and (2) money laundering conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 1956(h) ("Count Two"). On January 27, 2011, Petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the first superseding indictment. ( See Plea Agt., ECF No. 144.) On August 1, 2011, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 46 months' imprisonment, followed by 2 years of supervised release. Petitioner did not appeal his sentence.
On June 12, 2012, Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 Motion. In his § 2255 Motion, Petitioner alleges two grounds for relief:
Ground One: Ineffective assistance of counsel related to attorney's failure to take advantage of a two-level downward departure in exchange for the defendant's deportation concessions in the plea agreement
Ground Two: Ineffective assistance of counsel because of counsel's failure to use the underlying guideline recommendation in the plea agreement to block the upward variance
The United States filed a response in opposition on August 16, 2012 ("Gov'ts Resp.") (ECF No. 879), providing Roseboro notice to Petitioner (ECF No. 880), and Petitioner subsequently filed a reply on August 28, 2012 ...