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United States v. Burks

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

September 14, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
STEPHEN MAURICE BURKS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge.

         Stephen Maurice Burks, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 55) .[1] Burks contends that his Plea Agreement is void and unenforceable, and that he experienced ineffective assistance of counsel[2] in conjunction with his guilty plea. Specifically, Burks demands relief because:

Claim One: "Burks's plea agreement is void and unenforceable because it lacked consideration." (Gov't's Resp. 3, ECF No. 58 (citation omitted).)[3]
Claim Two: "Burks did not engage in some of the actions outlined in his sworn statement of facts." (Id. (citation omitted).)
Claim Three: "Burks's counsel was ineffective because the conduct in the statement of the facts does not constitute a crime." (Id. (citation omitted).)
Claim Four: "Burks's appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise certain issues on direct appeal." (Id. (citation omitted).)

         The Government responded, asserting that Burks's claims lack merit. (ECF No. 58.) Burks has filed a Reply. (ECF No. 59.) For the reasons set forth below, Burks's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 55) will be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 20, 2013, a grand jury charged Burks, in a one-count Indictment, with mail fraud. (Indictment 1, ECF No. 1.) On November 20, 2013, the Government filed a one-count Information against Burks, again charging him with mail fraud. (Information 1, ECF No. 15.) On November 26, 2013, Burks appeared before the United States Magistrate Judge and pled guilty to the one-count Information. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 19.)

         In the Statement of Facts supporting his Plea Agreement, Burks agreed that "the following facts are true and correct, and that had this matter proceeded to trial, the United States would have proven each of them beyond a reasonable doubt:"

1. From in or around January 2012 through in or around October 2012, within the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant, STEPHEN MAURICE BURKS, for the purposes of executing the scheme and artifice and to obtain money and property by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, did knowingly place and cause to be placed in any post office and authorized depository for mail matter, any matter and thing whatever to be sent and delivered by the Postal Service, specifically on or about March 5, 2012, did cause to be mailed a package-from investor D.S. in Oceanport, New Jersey, to be delivered via U.S. Mail to STEPHEN MAURICE BURKS at Chelsea Financial Group in Richmond, Virginia-containing a $50, 000 investment check, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.
2. At all times relevant to Count One, Defendant STEPHEN MAURICE BURKS was an individual with addresses in Maryland and Richmond, Virginia.
3. At all times relevant to Count One, BURKS was the Chief Executive Officer of Chelsea Financial Group, LLC ("CFG"), which operated from locations in Maryland and Richmond, Virginia.

         Scheme and Artifice to Defraud

4. From in or around January 2008 through in or around January 2013, within the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant, STEPHEN MAURICE BURKS, did willfully and knowingly devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money and property, specifically by means of misleading investors about his personal background and his use of investor funds in order to obtain investor funds so that BURKS could profit personally.

         Manner and Means of the Scheme

5. Starting at least as early as January 2008 and continuing through January 2013, BURKS both individually and through CFG offered and sold investments in several different investment schemes. These schemes included, but were not limited to: Forex (foreign currency exchange) trading; stock market investments; oil investments; payday lending franchises; and group homes.

         Misrepresentations About BURKS's Background

6. Throughout all of the different investment schemes, BURKS made material misrepresentations and omissions to investors about his background. Specifically, BURKS claimed to be an investment professional and/or a registered investment advisor when, in truth and fact, he knew that he was not.
7. BURKS also claimed to have extensive experience and an established history of success in these various investments when, in truth and fact, he knew that he did not.
8. BURKS also claimed to be a CTA, or Certified Tax Accountant, when in truth and fact, he knew ...

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