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 Ricardo Patino Vargus Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody ("§ 2255 Motion") (ECF No. 866). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the § 2255 Motion.
a. Factual Background
This case relates to Petitioner Ricardo Patino Vargus' ("Vargus" or "Petitioner") 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 served as the manager for the Pawtucket, Rhode Island cell. His managerial role for this cell spanned back to at least June 2010, and he was responsible for the unlawful distribution of at least 250 fraudulent identification documents.
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); and (2) money laundering conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 1956(h). A second superseding indictment was returned on February 23, 2011 (ECF No. 173), and a third superseding indictment was returned on February 24, 2011 (ECF No. 176), charging Petitioner with: (1) Racketeering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) ("Count One"); (2) 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 Eleven"); and (3) money laundering conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 1956(h) ("Count Twelve").
On April 18, 2011, Petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the third superseding indictment. ( See Plea Agt., ECF No. 221.) On July 21, 2011, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 43 months' imprisonment, followed by 2 years of supervised release. Petitioner did not appeal his sentence.
On July 24, 2012, Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 Motion. In his § 2255 Motion, Petitioner alleges one ground 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
The United States filed a response in opposition on August 1, 2012 ("Gov'ts Resp.") (ECF No. 875), providing Roseboro notice to Petitioner (ECF No. 876), and Petitioner subsequently filed a reply on August 20, 2012 ...