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United States v. Winans

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 13, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
Michael Winans, Jr., Defendant/Petitioner. Civil No. 15-11382

          OPINION & ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION

          Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge

         On October 3, 2012, Petitioner Michael Winans Jr., (“Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. On February 27, 2013, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 165 months' imprisonment. (Doc. # 19, Sentencing Trans. at 27). Judgment was entered on March 1, 2013. (Doc. # 13, Judgment).

         This matter is now before the Court on Petitioner's Motion to Vacate Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. # 25, Pet.'s Br.). The Government has filed a Response to Petitioner's motion (Doc. # 29, Gov't Resp.) and Petitioner has filed a Reply. (Doc. # 31, Pet.'s Reply). The Government was ordered to file a supplemental brief responding to Petitioner's Reply, which it did on January 6, 2017. (Doc. # 34, Gov't Supp'l Br.). Petitioner has asked for leave to file a response to the Government's supplemental brief, (Doc. # 37), which the Court shall deny.

         Because the files and records of the case conclusively establish that Petitioner is not entitled to relief as to any of the claims set forth in this § 2255 motion, an evidentiary hearing is not necessary. The motion is therefore ready for a decision by this Court. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate Sentence will be DENIED. Moreover, the Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         BACKGROUND

         The background facts are largely undisputed. On September 10, 2012, Petitioner was charged by Information with a single count of wire fraud. (Doc. #1, Information). On October 3, 2012, Petitioner pleaded guilty to the wire fraud charge, as set forth in the Information.

         In his Rule 11 Plea Agreement, Petitioner admitted that he devised a scheme to defraud and obtain money by means of fraud and fraudulent material pretenses, representations, and promises. (Doc. #10, Rule 11 Plea Agreement at 2). Specifically, Petitioner admitted that, from approximately October 2007 through September 2008, he operated the Winans Trust Foundation (the Trust) and represented that the Trust was a company investing in crude oil bonds in Saudi Arabia. (Id. at 3). Petitioner recruited eleven “shareholders” to: (1) solicit investors; (2) incorporate businesses to hold the funds provided by the investors they solicited; and (3) send the investor funds to the Trust. Id.

         Petitioner became aware that the Saudi Arabian crude oil bond did not exist as an investment vehicle as early as December 2007. Id. Still, Petitioner failed to disclose this fact to existing investors and, with the intent to defraud, continued to solicit funds for the Trust. Id. Each of the victims of this scheme invested between $1, 000 and $7, 000. Id. Petitioner obtained over $8 million from over 1, 000 investors. Id.

         Petitioner further admitted that: (1) he converted some of the investors' money to his own personal use; (2) that he gave some of his later investors' money to his earlier investors; and (3) that he falsely represented to the investors that it was a return on their investments. Id. at 4.

         The agreed-upon guideline range in the Plea Agreement was 151-188 months. (Rule 11 Plea Agreement, at 5). Attached to the Plea Agreement are several worksheets that were used by the parties to calculate Petitioner's sentencing guideline range. (Rule 11 Plea Agreement, at 17-30). On Worksheet “D” of the Plea Agreement, entitled “Guideline Range, ” Petitioner's Total Offense Level was 34 and the Criminal History Category was I.

         The Total Offense Level appears to have been calculated as follows: (1) Petitioner received a level 7 increase for pleading guilty to wire fraud, pursuant to § 2B1.1(a)(1); (2) Petitioner received a level 20 increase because the total loss amount was more than $7, 000, 000 and less than $20, 000, 000, pursuant to § 2B1.1(b)(1)(K); (3) Petitioner received a level 6 increase because more than 250 victims were affected, pursuant to § 2B1.1(b)(2)(C); and (4) Petitioner received a level 4 increase because he was the leader of the scheme, pursuant to § 3B1.1. This produced a Base Offense Level of 37. With an Acceptance of Responsibility[1]reduction of three levels, Petitioner's Total Offense Level became 34.

         The Plea Agreement contained a section entitled “Waiver of Appeal, ” wherein Defendant agreed to waive any right he may have to appeal his conviction. (Id. at 13).

         Petitioner reviewed the Rule 11 Plea Agreement and the attached worksheets with his attorney before he signed it. At the plea hearing, Petitioner was placed under oath and he and the Court engaged in the following colloquy:

The Court: I'm going to ask you some questions regarding the facts of the crime with which you're charged. You must tell the truth. Any false answers can be used against you in a separate prosecution for perjury or false statement. Do you understand?
Defendant: Yes, your honor.
. . . .
The Court: Mr. Winans, have you heard the charge that has been made against you?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And have you discussed the charge, as well as sentencing consequences of this charge with your attorney, Mr. Hatchett?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And has Mr. Hatchett answered each and every question that you've had regarding the charge, as well as the sentencing consequences of the charge?
Defendant: Yes.
The Court: Do you have any questions at all regarding the charge or the sentencing consequences of this charge?
Defendant: No, Your Honor.
. . . .
The Court: Before you signed [the Rule 11 Plea Agreement], did you read the document, as well as the attached worksheets?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And before you signed that document, did you review and discuss the document as well as the attached worksheets with Mr. Hatchett?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: Okay. And before you signed that document, did Mr. Hatchett answer each and every question that you had regarding the Rule 11 Agreement, as well as the attached worksheets?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And do you have any questions at all regarding anything contained in the Rule 11 Agreement, as well as the attached worksheets?
Defendant: No, Your Honor.
The Court: And has Mr. Hatchett answered each and every question that you've had regarding your case?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: And are you satisfied with the advice and service that Mr. Hatchett has provided to you in your case?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
. . . .
The Court: Now, is your willingness to plead guilty the result of a Rule 11 Plea Agreement that came about after discussions between the government attorney, Mr. Hammoud, your attorney, Mr. Hatchett, and yourself?
Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
. . . .
The Court: And could you please turn to page two, paragraph c(1), under “factual basis for guilty plea”? Do you see that paragraph?
Defendant: Yes.

(Doc. # 18, Plea Hearing Transcript at 4, 8-10, 12). The Court proceeded to read aloud the factual basis underlying Petitioner's plea. (Id. at 12-15). Petitioner confirmed that the facts read to him were true and accurate. (Id. at 15).

         Petitioner was also aware that his stipulated guideline range called for 151 to 188 months in prison, as evidenced by the following discussion that also took place at the plea hearing:

The Court: Now we're on page five. Could you drop down to paragraph 2(b) on page five, which is entitled “Agreed Guideline Range”? Do you see that?
Defendant: Yes.
The Court: Do you see in the second sentence where it reads your guideline range is 151-188 months in prison? Do you see that?
Defendant: Yes.
The Court: Now, of course the guidelines are advisory. However, has Mr. Hatchett explained to you the significance ...

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