United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mayra Guillen-Moreno filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or
correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. D.E. 287.
Now pending is the United States of America's (the
"Government") Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 295), to
which Movant has responded (D.E. 296). For the reasons stated
herein, the Government's motion is
GRANTED, and Movant's § 2255 motion
and six others were charged in a 13-count indictment with
conspiracy to transport unlawful aliens and transporting
specific aliens. The charges against Movant included
conspiracy to transport unlawful aliens between January 1 and
July 24, 2017, (Count 1) and transporting Antonio
Mejia-Santos, an unlawful alien, on July 24, 2017, (Count
13). The Superseding Indictment also included a Notice of
Forfeiture against all seven defendants.
pled guilty to Count 1 of the Superseding Indictment
(conspiracy) pursuant to a written plea agreement. In
exchange for her guilty plea, the Government agreed to
dismiss Count 13 (transporting Mejia-Santos) and recommend
that Movant receive maximum credit for acceptance of
responsibility and a sentence within the applicable guideline
range. As part of the plea agreement, Movant waived her right
to appeal or file a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
except to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
rearraignment, Movant stipulated to her involvement in the
alien smuggling operation. 9/28/2017 Rearraign. Tr., D.E.
267, pp. 29-34. The attorney for the Government stated that
Movant's role in the conspiracy was to run a stash house
where undocumented aliens were held before transport through
checkpoints and onward into the United States. Prior to
Movant's arrest, an undocumented alien/material witness
told investigators that Movant was the caretaker and
coordinator of the stash house where he was held and that
while he was there, other undocumented aliens came and
frequently conversed with Movant about her smuggling
activities. According to the material witness, Movant kept a
ledger at her residence with names of undocumented aliens she
had housed. Four other undocumented aliens who were
apprehended in an 18-wheeler at the Falfurrias Border Patrol
Checkpoint identified Movant in a lineup as the caretaker of
the stash house where they stayed after they had crossed into
the United States.
time agents executed a warrant for Movant's arrest, she
had five undocumented aliens at her house. A search of the
residence uncovered a handgun and a ledger used to track
names of aliens and specific dollar amounts. Movant made a
statement at the time of her arrest admitting that she had
harbored around 240 aliens in her residence over the past 6
months and had been paid a total of $12, 000. Movant admitted
under oath during rearraignment that what the prosecutor said
about her involvement in the conspiracy was true and that she
knew the people she was housing were in the United States
illegally. The Court accepted Movant's guilty plea after
finding that her plea was knowing and voluntary, and that it
was supported by an adequate basis in fact.
Court sentenced Movant to 63 months' imprisonment.
Judgment was entered January 12, 2018. Movant did not appeal.
She filed her current motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on
July 10, 2019.
raises a single ground for relief: Counsel was ineffective
for failing to investigate the facts of her case before she
pled guilty to conspiracy to transport unlawful aliens.
Unlike Movant, her codefendant Gerald Leon Graves went to
trial. However, the Fifth Circuit later reversed Graves'
conviction on two transporting counts after the Government
conceded that there was no evidence at trial linking Graves
to those two specific aliens. Movant argues that her
conviction incorporates the same aliens, and there was no
evidence that she knew they were undocumented. Thus, her
conspiracy conviction must be vacated because she is
"actually innocent" of this crime.
28 U.S.C. § 2255
are four cognizable grounds upon which a federal prisoner may
move to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence: (1)
constitutional issues, (2) challenges to the district
court's jurisdiction to impose the sentence, (3)
challenges to the length of a sentence in excess of the
statutory maximum, and (4) claims that the sentence is
otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. §
2255; United States v. Placente, 81 F.3d 555, 558
(5th Cir. 1996). "Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is
reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for
a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on
direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete
miscarriage of justice." United States v.
Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992) (per curiam).
In addition, "a collateral challenge may not do service
for an appeal." United States v. Frady, 456
U.S. 152, 165 (1982).