United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
D. MERRYDAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
O. Joel timely moves (Doc. 1) under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
vacate his sentence, and the United States responds (Doc. 7).
and two co-defendants, Maurice Vernon and Elton Lassiter,
operated a profitable mortgage fraud scheme. Joel’s
company, Investor’s Outlet, Inc., offered buyers money
to purchase houses. Vernon recruited buyers and located
houses. Lassiter, a mortgage loan processor, prepared
fraudulent loan documents.
a ten-week period, a buyer with an annual income of less than
$30, 000 purchased ten properties and borrowed $1.8 million.
By inflating the properties’ purchase price,
Investor’s Outlet received $297, 229.65 from the loan
proceeds. Unable to pay the loans, the buyer ultimately filed
for bankruptcy protection.
pleaded guilty and testified during a two-week jury trial.
The jury found Joel and Vernon guilty of conspiracy, mail
fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements on a loan
application. Joel was sentenced to 63 months’
imprisonment and ordered to pay $953, 461 in restitution. The
Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence.
claims (ground one)
alleges violations of the Sixth Amendment’s
Confrontation Clause and the Fifth Amendment’s Due
Process Clause. During trial, FBI Agent Leslie Nelson
testified that Vernon - who declined to testify - reported
that Investor’s Outlet, Inc. produced “double
We talked about how the HUDs, or the settlement statements,
were done in his business in Investors Outlet and [Vernon]
explained to me that the way they did them was they did
double HUDs, is what he called them. And [Vernon] explained
by way of an example that there would be one HUD prepared
with a . . . correct price. There would be a second separate
and independent HUD prepared at a higher price[.]
(Doc. 283 at 204) Also, the United States during opening
argument referred to false invoices and during closing
argument referred to “double HUDs.”
(E.g., Doc. 280 at 43–44; Doc. 289 at
direct appeal, the Eleventh Circuit rejected Joel’s
Confrontation Clause challenge:
Leslie Nelson, a government witness, did not violate
Joel’s Confrontation Clause rights by recounting
Vernon’s statement that fraudulent settlement
statements were made at Investor’s Outlet, the company
that Joel owns. Although the testimony mentioned his
business, independent testimony was necessary for the jury to
connect that statement to Joel’s involvement in the
scheme. Finally, the government did not violate Joel’s
Confrontation Clause rights by referencing false invoices not
admitted into evidence because the Confrontation Clause only
limits the introduction of testimonial hearsay evidence, and
an attorney’s arguments are not evidence.
United States v. Vernon, 593 Fed.App’x 883,
887 (11th Cir. 2014).
the Eleventh Circuit rejected Joel’s Confrontation
Clause challenge on direct appeal, Joel is procedurally
barred from raising the same claim in a motion to vacate.
Stoufflet v. United States, 757 F.3d 1236, 1239,
1242 (11th Cir. 2014). Similarly, Joel’s Due Process
Clause challenge is procedurally defaulted because he
neglected to raise the claim on direct appeal and because he