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United States v. Abdulwahab

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

May 2, 2016



Robert E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge.

Adley H. Abdulwahab, a federal inmate proceeding by counsel, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 4 90). Abdulwahab contends that he experienced ineffective assistance of counsel[1] in conjunction with his trial. Specifically, Abdulwahab demands relief because:[2]

Claim One: "Counsel stipulated and failed to object to inadmissible evidence of petitioner's prior criminal history." (§ 2255 Mot. 13.)
Claim Two: "Counsel failed to object to evidence of petitioner's lavish personal spending and the prosecutor's appeal to class prejudice." (Id. at 17.)
Claim Three: "Counsel failed to object to petitioner's use of an alias." (Id. at 20.)
Claim Four: "Counsel failed to object to the visible restraint of petitioner in the presence of the jury." (Io\ at 21.)

The Government has responded, asserting that Abdulwahab's claims lack merit. (ECF No. 506.) Abdulwahab has filed a Reply. {ECF No. 513.) For the reasons set forth below, Abdulwahab's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 490) will be denied.


On September 7, 2010, a grand jury charged Abdulwahab with one count of mail fraud conspiracy (Count One); six counts of mail fraud (Counts Two through Seven); one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering (Count Eight); six counts of money laundering (Counts Nine through Fourteen); and four counts of securities fraud (Counts Fifteen through Eighteen). (Indictment 1-29, ECF No. 3.) On February 1, 2011, the grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging the same counts. (Superseding Indictment 1-29, ECF No. 140.) By Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on March 7, 2011, the Court granted Abdulwahab's and co-defendant Christian Allmendinger's separate motions to sever their trials. United States v. Allmendinger, Nos. 3:10CR248-01, 3:10CR248-02, 2011 WL 841514, at *1 (E.D. Va. Mar. 7, 2011); (see ECF Nos. 177-78).

On May 31, 2011, the Government filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts Four, Ten, and Sixteen of the Superseding Indictment with respect to Abdulwahab. (ECF No. 248.) By Order entered on June 3, 2011, the Court granted the Government's motion. (ECF No. 254.)

On June 3, 2011, the jury trial commenced. After the Government rested, Abdulwahab moved for a judgment of acquittal as to all counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. (June 9, 2011 Tr. 646-58, ECF No. 295.) The Court denied the motion. (June 9, 2011 Tr. 659.)[3] Abdulwahab provided the sole testimony for his defense. (June 9, 2011 Tr. 683-812.) Subsequently, Abdulwahab renewed his motion for a judgment of acquittal, which the Court denied. (June 10, 2011 Tr. 3-8, ECF No. 286.) After less than a day of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict, finding Abdulwahab guilty of the remaining fourteen counts of the Superseding Indictment. (ECF No. 262.)

On November 9, 2011, the Court entered judgment against Abdulwahab and sentenced him to 720 months of imprisonment. (J. 3, ECF No. 386.) Abdulwahab appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed Abdulwahab's convictions for money laundering, but affirmed the remainder of his convictions. United States v. Abdulwahab, 715 F.3d 521, 523 (4th Cir. 2013). The Fourth Circuit vacated Abdulwahab's sentence and remanded the matter for resentencing. Id. On September 6, 2013, the Court entered an amended judgment against Abdulwahab and again sentenced him to 720 months of imprisonment. (Am. J. 3, ECF No. 472.) Abdulwahab filed no further appeal.


The Fourth Circuit summarized the evidence of Abdulwahab's guilt as follows:

Christian M. Allmendinger and Brent Oncale founded a company known as "A & O in Houston, Texas, in late 2004. The company sold life settlement investments, which are interests in life insurance policies. Until the end of 2006, A & O sold "bonded life settlements, " which were interests in particular life insurance policies. The investments were for fixed terms of between four and seven years. If the insured died during the term, the life insurance company would pay a benefit, but if the insured remained alive, a reinsurance bond, which A & O purchased from Provident Capital Indemnity ("PCI"), was designed to pay out and take over the life insurance policy (so long as the life insurance policy premiums were current).
Allmendinger and Oncale marketed and sold A & O's bonded life settlements directly to investors, and in early 2005, they hired Abdulwahab to market and sell their products. At the time, Abdulwahab was selling a different product for a different company, BHC Marketing. BHC soon terminated Abdulwahab, however, and he began working full-time as A & O's "national accounts director." Abdulwahab owned and operated Houston Investment Center ("HIC"), a Texas company that served as A & O's marketing arm. Through HIC, Abdulwahab employed mid-level sales managers who, in turn, supervised independent A & O sales agents around the country. A & O paid HIC its first commission on May 26, 2005.
In marketing A & O's products, both orally and through written materials they created, Allmendinger, Oncale, and Abdulwahab lied about many critical facts. For example, they represented that investor funds were placed in a segregated account dedicated to those payments and used right away to pay policy premiums up front. In reality, A & O had no separate account to pay premiums and A & O paid the premiums only as they became due. Indeed, A & O commingled investor money in a general operating account that A & O used for paying its bills.[4] While A & O was operating, Allmendinger, Oncale, and Abdulwahab misappropriated millions of dollars from this account for their personal benefit.
The coconspirators also misrepresented A & O's size, staff, and record of earning returns for its investors. In 2005 and 2006, A & O's websites listed fictional people as company principals, falsely stated that A & O had offices in multiple states, greatly exaggerated the number of A & O employees, and falsely stated that A & O had particular legal and business professionals on its staff. The sites also stated in July 2005 that A & O had "enabled [its] clients to leverage $375 million into $800 million in less than five years, " when in actuality, no investor had received any pay out at that time and Abdulwahab had been informed of that fact. Abdulwahab assisted in creating the 2006 version of the website, and his business card listed the website address.
In 2006, Allmendinger and Oncale invited Abdulwahab, who was, at that point, responsible for 80-90% of A & O's sales, to become a partner. Thereafter, the three men each held an equal interest in A & O and shared authority over the company. Abdulwahab also was added as a signatory to A & O's bank accounts. HIC continued to market A & O's ...

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