Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Venkataram v. United States

United States District Court, Second Circuit

September 20, 2013

NATARAJAN VENKATARAM, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT P. PATTERSON, Jr., District Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Natarajan R. Venkataram ("Venkataram") brings a motion in Case No. 11 CV 6503 to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence imposed on July 11, 2008 after he pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit theft concerning a federal program and to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, committing a theft concerning a federal program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A), and committing money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1956(a)(2)(B)(i). See United States v. Venkataram, No. 06 CR 102 (S.D.N.Y. July 11, 2008). In his motion, Venkataram challenges his sentence on the grounds that his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and his Fifth Amendment right to due process were violated. (Pet'r's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence ("Pet'r's Mem."), Sept. 12, 2011, 11 CV 6503, ECF No. 2.) In a supplemental memorandum filed on December 22, 2011, Venkataram raised a number of additional claims for § 2255 relief. (Pet'r's Supplemental Mem. in Supp. of § 2255 Motion ("Pet'r's Supplemental Mem."), ECF No. 7.)

On February 5, 2012, the Government filed a memorandum in opposition to Venkataram's petition, in which it contends that Venkataram's claims are without merit and should be denied without a hearing. (Gov't Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. To Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence ("Gov't Mem."), ECF No. 9.) Venkataram filed a reply memorandum with the Court on March 5, 2013. (Pet'r's Reply to Opp'n, ECF No. 22.)

In a separate action, in Case No. 11 CV 8005, Venkataram seeks coram nobis relief for errors concerning the Court's order of restitution in the same criminal case.[1] (Compl., Nov. 7, 2011, 11 CV 8005, ECF No. 1.) On March 14, 2012, the Government filed a memorandum in opposition to Venkataram's request. (Gov't Mem. in Opp'n to Coram Nobis, ECF No. 11.)

For the reasons stated below, Venkataram's § 2255 Motion is DENIED, and Venkataram's petition for a writ of error coram nobis is also DENIED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

A. Criminal Proceedings

On June 21, 2006, the Government filed an indictment charging Venkataram in sixteen counts. (Superseding Indictment (the "Indictment") at 1-33, June 21, 2006, 06 CR 102, ECF No. 24.) Count One charged Venkataram with conspiracy to commit theft concerning a federal program and to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. ( Id. at 1-17.) Count Two charged Venkataram with theft concerning a federal program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A). ( Id. at 18-19.) Counts Three through Sixteen charged Venkataram with money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1956(a)(2)(B)(i). ( Id. at 19-33.) The Indictment also contained forfeiture allegations related to the federal program fraud violations alleged in Counts One and Two and the money laundering violations alleged in Counts Three through Sixteen. ( Id. at 33-37.) The Indictment alleged that Venkataram, with other defendants, stole more than $9 million from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York (the "OCME") and laundered the stolen money in various ways. ( Id. at 9-36.) Venkataram, formerly the director of the OCME's Management Information Systems department, was alleged to have been the mastermind of the scheme, which primarily involved awarding OCME computer services contracts to companies that were not actually providing services, or were providing only minimal services, for the purpose of stealing money from the OCME. (Id.)

On October 30, 2007, Venkataram pleaded guilty to all counts of the Indictment without the benefit of a plea agreement. (See Plea Hr'g Tr. ("Plea Hr'g") at 2, Oct. 30, 2007, ECF No. 692.) The plea proceeding complied in all respects with Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Venkataram's plea was accepted after Venkataram acknowledged his guilt as to each of the sixteen counts of the Indictment. (See id. at 1-53.)

B. Sentencing Proceedings

On March 21, 2008, the Court held a Fatico hearing, during which the Government presented evidence about the details of Venkataram's scheme. The Government's sole witness, the Department of Information attorney who had investigated Venkataram's case, testified that approximately $9 million was diverted to Venkataram because of his scheme and that this was a reasonable estimate of the OCME's loss. (See Fatico Tr. at 10-193, March 21, 2008.) Venkataram objected to the loss calculation and, at several points, expressed interest in calling Muhammed Naseh, a co-defendant in the case, to testify on the issue of loss. (See Order, July 10, 2008, 06 CR 102, ECF No. 728.) The Court ultimately denied Venkataram's request after his counsel failed to submit an offer of proof in writing. (Id.)

The Court proceeded to sentencing on July 11, 2008. During sentencing proceedings, Venkataram conceded that Guidelines enhancements were warranted for abuse of trust, aggravating role in the offense, and committing money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956. (See Sentencing Hr'g Tr. ("Sentencing Hr'g") at 146, July 11, 2008, ECF No. 733.) Defense counsel argued that Venkataram deserved a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility and a downward departure due to diminished capacity and extraordinary acceptance of responsibility, and that sentencing enhancements for sophisticated means and sophisticated laundering should not apply. ( Id. at 134-45.) The Court found that enhancements applied for both the use of sophisticated means and engaging in money laundering and that no downward departure was warranted, but agreed that Venkataram deserved credit for acceptance of responsibility and granted a two-level reduction. ( Id. at 198-200.) The Court then sentenced Venkataram to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 60 months on Count One, 120 months on Count Two, and 180 months of each of Counts Three through Sixteen, which it ordered to be followed by concurrent terms of five years' supervised release. ( Id. at 202-04.) The Court also ordered that Venkataram pay a $50, 000 fine, make restitution in the amount of $2, 970, 072, forfeit $2, 970, 072, and pay a mandatory $1, 600 special assessment.[3] ( Id. at 204-12.)

C. The Appeal

Following his conviction, Venkataram filed an appeal to challenge his sentence, but not his guilty plea. In his appeal, Venkataram argued, among other things, that this Court erroneously calculated the applicable Sentencing Guidelines range in his case. United States v. Venkataram , 356 Fed.Appx. 541, 542-43 (2d Cir. 2009). Specifically, Venkataram argued that the Court erred in calculating the loss amount resulting from his crimes; denying him the opportunity to call Naseh to testify on the issue of loss; declining to award an additional onelevel reduction for acceptance of responsibility when calculating the applicable Guidelines range; relying on the same conduct in applying the sophisticated means and sophisticated laundering enhancements; and applying the abuse of trust enhancement to his sentence. Id . On December 16, 2009, the Second Circuit, in a summary order, rejected each of Venkataram's claims, with the exception of the claim that the Court had mistakenly imposed a five-year term of supervised release, [4] and affirmed Venkataram's sentence of imprisonment. Id . The Supreme Court denied Venkataram's petition for a writ of certiorari on December 6, 2010. Venkataram v. United States , 131 S.Ct. 809 (2010).

II. § 2255 MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE

Venkataram, proceeding pro se, has petitioned the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his petition, Venkataram asserts numerous separate grounds for relief based on the ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. (Pet'r's Mem. at 7-63.) His petition alleges that the seven attorneys he privately retained to represent him in his criminal case-Mark Potashnick, Ronald Rubinstein, Sabrina Shroff, Gerald Shargel, Alan Seidler, James Neville, and Norman Trabulus-all failed to provide effective assistance in various ways. (Id.) Venkataram also asserts eight separate grounds for relief based on having been denied procedural due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. ( Id. at 63-90.) In a supplemental memorandum filed ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.