United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
This case arises out of defendant’s conviction, by a jury, on December 27, 1993. Presently before the Court is Ground Three of defendant’s pro se Habeas Corpus Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [hereinafter § 2241 Petition], in which defendant asserts that the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Santos, 553 U.S. 507 (2008) rendered his conduct non-criminal. For the reasons that follow, defendant’s § 2241 Petition is denied with respect to defendant’s remaining claim, Ground Three.
II. Background and Procedural History
On May 20, 1993, a grand jury in this District returned an Indictment against defendant, charging him with thirty-two counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, two counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, thirteen counts of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a), and nine counts of laundering proceeds of unlawful activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(2). The Indictment stated that defendant used aliases and corporate entities he owned, including Amin A. Rashid and Associates (“AAR”) and SEMCO Capital Corporation (“SEMCO”), to defraud potential borrowers. Indictment ¶¶ 1, 2, 5. Specifically, the Indictment charged that defendant solicited customers seeking sizable commercial loans, id. ¶ 6, and defendant signed “consulting agreements” with those customers obligating him to use his “best efforts” to secure financing from an alleged lending source, usually one of the corporate entities that defendant owned, such as SEMCO, id. ¶¶ 9, 10. The Indictment also charged that defendant, through SEMCO or another corporate entity he owned, then required payment of “advance fees” for financing that he did not intend to obtain. Id. ¶ 12, 16.
During closing arguments at defendant’s trial, the government argued to the jury that it had proven money laundering beyond a reasonable doubt because “money received from a victim” was used “to pay the salaries of SEMCO employees, ” Trial Tr., December 23, 1993, at 49, and that defendant used “accounts not only of SEMCO, but of [AAR] to pay for the office and the office rent for the other company that he controlled, Capital Guarantee, ” id. at 48.
On December 27, 1993, following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of thirty counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, thirteen counts of money laundering, and eight counts of laundering proceeds of unlawful activity. On May 17, 1994, defendant was sentenced to, inter alia, 168 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
Defendant filed the pro se § 2241 Petition on September 17, 2012. That Petition asserted three grounds for relief: (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to convict and sentence defendant due to its amendment of the Indictment; (2) the Indictment expired when it was amended; and (3) the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Santos, 553 U.S. 507 (2008) rendered defendant’s conduct non-criminal. By Order dated December 21, 2012, the Court dismissed that Petition on the ground that it “raise[d] only issues that have been raised and rejected by this Court and the Court of Appeals.”
On January 25, 2013, defendant filed Petitioner Amin A. Rashid’s Certified Motion for Leave of Court to File a Section 2241 Petition, which sought permission to refile defendant’s § 2241 Petition. That procedure was required by Order dated January 4, 2013 because of the numerous frivolous and repetitive motions filed by defendant. Pursuant to that Order, defendant certified that the claims he wished to present were new claims never before raised and disposed on the merits by a federal court. By Order dated February 19, 2013, the Court denied that Motion with respect to Grounds One and Two on the ground that defendant previously had raised those claims in a Rule 60(b) Motion, which the Court denied on the merits by Order dated January 3, 2011. The Court deferred ruling on Ground Three of that Motion and ordered the government to file a response addressing “the details of the Government’s argument that Ground Three has been previously raised [by defendant].” Order dated February 19, 2013, ¶ 8.
By Order dated March 22, 2013, the Court granted Petitioner Amin A. Rashid’s Certified Motion for Leave of Court to File a Section 2241 Petition with respect to Ground Three. Defendant’s § 2241 Petition was deemed filed with respect to Ground Three as of September 17, 2012, the date on which the § 2241 Petition was initially filed. The Court addresses the issues raised in Ground Three below.
Defendant argues in Ground Three of the § 2241 Petition that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the money laundering statute in United States v. Santos, 553 U.S. 507 (2008) rendered the conduct that formed the basis for his money laundering convictions non-criminal. Specifically, defendant argues that his convictions for money laundering should be vacated because Santos required that laundered “proceeds” be derived from criminal profits, and his convictions were based on the use of the laundered proceeds to pay the expenses of his crimes, such as rent and employee salaries. The Court has jurisdiction to consider Ground Three pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Abuhouran v. Grondolsky, 643 F.Supp.2d 654, 656 (D.N.J. 2009), aff’d 392 F. App’x 78, 79 n.1 (3d Cir. 2010); accord Garland v. Roy, 615 F.3d 391, 404 (5th Cir. 2010).
A. The Santos Decision
The defendants in Santos ran an illegal lottery, in which the bettors bought tickets and paid “runners, ” who took a percentage of the wagers as commission and passed the remaining money to “collectors.” 553 U.S. at 509. The manager of the illegal lottery would then pay the winners and the salaries of the collectors. Id. The payments to runners, collectors, and winners “formed the basis” for both defendants’ convictions of, inter alia, running an illegal gambling business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1955, and money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i). Id. at 509–10. The defendants collaterally attacked their ...