A District Court judge in New York has denied a request from an individual who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 90 months in prison for his role in a multi-million debt collection scam to have his sentence vacated or set aside because the individual’s lawyer was “ineffective.”
A copy of the ruling in the case of Sessum v. United States of America can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff was permanently barred from the collection industry and sentenced to 90 months in prison for his role in orchestrating the scam. He and a partner were co-owners of a collection operation and were responsible for developing scripts that contained misrepresentations and were used by collectors when contacting individuals. The plaintiff was also accused of inflating the amount that was owed, mailing fake court documents and affidavits to individuals, and impersonating process servers threatening individuals with lawsuits during phone conversations.
During a five-year period, the operation collected more than $31 million, a portion of which was used to pay the plaintiff’s personal expenses.
To prove he received ineffective counsel, an individual must show that his counsel’s representation was deficient, falling below the objective standard of reasonableness and that the errors resulted in actual prejudice. The plaintiff argued that had his attorney conducted a proper investigation, he would have realized that the plaintiff was not a debt collector, but a purchaser of defaulted debts. The distinction should have been enough to keep the plaintiff out of jail, he argues.
But because the plaintiff pleaded guilty to wire fraud and not anything related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the distinction does not matter.
The plaintiff also contended that he received ineffective counsel in regards to the duration of his sentence which was reached through a plea agreement and the size of the loss that was stipulated. But Judge Katherine Polk Failla of the District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected every argument and also ruled that a certificate of appealability should not be granted.