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Mansour v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 9, 2015

EDWIN J. MANSOUR, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
EDWIN J. MANSOUR, JR., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NAOMI REICE BUCHWALD, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Edwin J. Mansour, Jr., an inmate at the Federal Medical Center Butner ("FMC Butner"), has filed a pro se motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to challenge his conviction for bank fraud conspiracy and his sentence, on the constitutional grounds that his guilty plea was involuntary and his counsel ineffective. He also appears to object to the quality of his medical treatment at FMC Butner. For the reasons stated below, Mansour's motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

A. The Offense

Between 2007 and 2009, defendant Edwin Mansour operated at least two businesses with his co-defendants. Highway Furniture, Inc., purported to manufacture and sell mattresses, and New York Funding Group, Inc., purported to invest in consumer debt.[2] The trouble with these companies-and the reason why Mansour is now in prison-is that Highway Furniture did not sell mattresses (or at least none that Mansour helped sell) and New York Funding did not buy consumer debt. The true purpose of these entities was to defraud banks.

The intended result of Mansour's fraud was to help consumers obtain loans for which they could not legitimately qualify. A consumer with a bad credit history would pay Mansour's group hundreds of dollars for "credit repair." Mansour's group would then submit false information regarding the consumer to major credit reporting agencies (Experian and TransUnion) in one of two ways. Either the conspirators would inform the credit reporting agencies that the consumer was in good standing on a fake line of credit with one of the two businesses, or the conspirators would delete the consumer's real delinquent debt on the pretense that New York Funding had bought the debt and the consumer had paid it. Once the consumer's credit score improved on the basis of these lies, the consumer would take out a loan on more favorable terms than he otherwise would have received.

Mansour's group executed this fraud thousands of times, and their scheme caused lenders to issue tens of millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained loans, resulting in millions of dollars of losses.

B. The Criminal Case

1. Indictment and Presentment

In July 2011, a grand jury indicted Mansour and three codefendants (Edwin Jacquet, Peter Romeo, and Denise Hudson) for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer. See Indictment, ECF No. 2.

At Mansour's presentment, the Court (Ellis, M.J.) granted bail and appointed Steven Frankel, Esq., as counsel. See Form CJA 20, ECF No. 24. Frankel, an experienced criminal defense attorney, represented Mansour throughout the proceedings in this Court.[3]

2. Plea Agreement

In October 2012, following extensive discovery and counseled negotiations with the Government, Mansour agreed to plead guilty to Count One of the Indictment, conspiracy to commit bank fraud. See Plea Agr. at 1.

By signing his plea agreement, Mansour stipulated that his range under the Sentencing Guidelines was 51 to 63 months, based on an offense level of 22 and a criminal history category of III.[4] Id. at 3-4. As part of this stipulation, both he and the Government agreed that neither party "w[ould] seek any departure or adjustment pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines that [wa]s not set forth" in the Plea Agreement. Id. at 4. However, both Mansour and the Government remained free to seek a non-Guidelines sentence based on the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), and the Government reserved the right to oppose the contemplated "acceptance of responsibility" adjustment based on misconduct between his plea and his sentencing. See id.

Mansour further agreed "to make restitution in the amount of $9, 301, 438 to the victims of Count One of the Indictment, ... and that the obligation to make such restitution shall be made a condition of supervised release." Id. at 2.

Finally, Mansour abandoned most of his rights to challenge his conviction, either directly or collaterally:

It is agreed that... the defendant will not file a direct appeal, nor bring a collateral challenge, including but not limited to an application under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2255 and/or 2241, nor seek a sentence modification pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), of any sentence within or below the Stipulated Guidelines Range of 51 to 63 months' imprisonment.... The defendant also agrees not to appeal any restitution amount that is less than or equal to $9, 301, 438....

Id. at 5.[5]

3. Plea Hearing

The same day that Mansour executed his plea agreement, he appeared before us to plead guilty.

Mansour reported that he had not received dialysis since the previous day, and that he was feeling "[p]hysically, 60, 70 percent" and "sluggish[]" as a result. See Plea Tr. at 3:9-11, 4:5-14. Nevertheless, he assured us that he had no "difficulty following [the] conversation, " and that none of his medications affected his ability to understand the proceedings. See id. at 3:14-21, 4:15-17.

He also acknowledged that he had received enough time to discuss the charges with counsel, and that he was satisfied with counsel's advice. See id. at 4:18-23.

Next, we reviewed the charges against him, his full range of potential sentences (up to 30 years), his trial rights, and the terms of his plea agreement:

THE COURT: Do you understand that it is part of your plea that you have agreed to make restitution in the sum of $9, 301, 438?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, your Honor.
...
THE COURT: Do you understand that the parties have agreed that neither a downward nor an upward departure from the guidelines range is appropriate, and that if you receive a sentence within or below the guidelines range, that you have waived your right ...

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