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Tremblay v. United States

April 20, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge



On November 20, 2006, Petitioner Martin Tremblay ("petitioner" or "Tremblay") pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to one count of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3)(B). The petitioner currently is serving a prison sentence of 48 months, imposed by this Court on March 14, 2007. He brings this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Tremblay requests relief on the grounds that

(1) he did not commit a crime, despite his guilty plea; (2) he did not understand the offense at the time of his guilty plea due to ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) the prosecutor failed to present exculpatory information to the grand jury. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


The following facts are taken from the parties' submissions in connection with this petition and are undisputed except where noted.

(a) Investigation and Arrest

Tremblay, a Canadian national living in the Bahamas, was the director of Dominion Investments ("Dominion"), an investment firm based in the Bahamas. The New York Drug Enforcement Strike Force ("the "Strike Force") carried out an investigation into Tremblay and Dominion, an investigation spanning several years and aimed at assessing the legitimacy of Dominion's offshore financial services. The investigation revealed ties between Dominion and known criminals. Specifically, the investigation revealed instances where international narcotics traffickers, pyramid schemers, stock fraudsters, and tax evaders used accounts set up by Tremblay and Dominion to launder the proceeds of their crimes. According to the investigation, Tremblay's money laundering scheme involved setting up shell corporations with fictitious nominees and trustees. Tremblay or other Dominion employees would serve as "President" or "Secretary" of these corporations to disguise the real owners of the funds deposited in the accounts.

For his part, Tremblay maintains in the instant petition that Dominion "operated in an open and transparent fashion" and that most Dominion clients used its services for legitimate investment management, asset protection, and tax planning. While Dominion had "its share of undesirable clients," Tremblay states that Dominion always reported suspicious activity to relevant authorities and cooperated with investigations into its clients.

Based on the findings from the investigation into Tremblay and Dominion, the Strike Force started an undercover operation in January 2005. The undercover operation began with a confidential informant (the "CS") contacting Tremblay and asking if he would be interested in working with the CS's client. Tremblay agreed to open a new account for the CS's client, and in February 2005, undercover agents began corresponding with Tremblay by e-mail.

On March 19, 2005, Tremblay met in Manhattan with the CS and an undercover agent ("UC-1") who was posing as the CS's client. The Strike Force videotaped and audio recorded the meeting. At this initial meeting, UC-1 informed Tremblay that he sought to launder the proceeds of narcotics trafficking through bank accounts that would be set up by Tremblay. Tremblay maintains in the instant petition that he made it clear at the meeting that he would not participate in money laundering and that the meeting ended without an agreement. Tremblay recounts ending the meeting by saying he would call back the client if he could help. According to Tremblay, he never called UC-1.

In April 2005, a second undercover agent ("UC-2") contacted Tremblay about opening a bank account in the Bahamas for his and UC-1's funds. Tremblay explained to UC-2 that they would need to incorporate a company in order to open a bank account, and that he wanted to use Arnold Forbes, a lawyer he had worked with before, to incorporate the company.

Initially, Tremblay told UC-2 that he would not manage the account, but would only be tangentially involved with it. However, on April 13, 2005, Tremblay faxed to UC-2 in New York the incorporation documents for the company he had discussed with UC-2 (as the prerequisite for opening a bank account). Tremblay informed UC-2 that, once the company was incorporated, Forbes would open the related bank account. Tremblay instructed UC-2 to tell Forbes that UC-2 had a cash-generating business in New York City and needed an account to deposit the cash. When UC-2 expressed concern over Forbes' knowledge and involvement with the account, Tremblay advised UC-2 to be careful when explaining his cash-only business arrangement to Forbes. Tremblay also said that he would manage and supervise the account, and informed UC-2 that the management fee was about one percent.

Next, Tremblay began to instruct UC-2 on using his account with Forbes. These instructions included recommendations for the least suspicious way to transfer money into the account. Specifically, Tremblay recommended that UC-2 send a total of approximately $100,000 to $150,000 every few months, but that UC-2 send no more than $50,000 at a time into the account. Over the next few months, Tremblay communicated often with UC-1 and UC-2 regarding account paperwork and wiring money into the account.

On May 23, 2005, agents wired $20,000 in funds to the Dominion account from "F.I.D. Industries". UC-1 and Tremblay subsequently confirmed this transaction by e-mail. In October 2005, UC-1 sent another wire transfer -- this time $200,000 -- to Dominion accounts.

Tremblay, on the other hand, characterizes his interactions with UC-1 and UC-2 between March and October 2005 as "relentless harass[ment] . . . to get him involved" in managing the account. Tremblay maintains in the instant petition that the agents initiated every one of the approximately fifty communications he made with the agents throughout the undercover investigation. Tremblay asserts that when exchanging e-mails in June 2005 regarding the $20,000 transfer, he asked UC-1 for the source of the funds, and the agent responded "F.I.D. Industries" and provided a Manhattan address. Tremblay also maintains that, in October 2005, he was contacted twice by UC-2 to transfer money to the Bahamas but refused to make both these transfers. Finally, Tremblay maintains that the $200,000 transfer in October ...

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