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United States v. Vanmeter

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 3, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
KAREN MARIE VANMETER, Defendant/Movant. Civil Action No. 3:12-7233-DCR-EBA


DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

Defendant Karen Marie VanMeter entered a guilty plea to an information charging her with violating 18 U.S.C. § 501. On December 13, 2011, she was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty-one months, followed by a term of supervised release of three years. This matter is now pending for consideration of VanMeter's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Record No. 23]

Notwithstanding the fact that VanMeter waived the right to collaterally attack her guilty plea and conviction, she argues that she entered into the Plea Agreement containing the waiver provision unknowingly and involuntarily due to ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim arises from a conflict due to an alleged, unwanted sexual encounter with her attorney. However, even if the alleged encounter occurred, VanMeter is still unable to demonstrate prejudice. Additionally, VanMeter's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary and not the result of ineffective assistance of counsel. As a result, the Court will deny the relief sought.


A. The Information and VanMeter's Written Plea Agreement

On August 19, 2011, VanMeter entered a plea of guilty to an one-count Information. The Information charged VanMeter with knowingly forging and counterfeiting United States postage stamps, with the intent to use the forged or counterfeit postage stamps. [Record Nos. 3, 4, 5] A written Plea Agreement was tendered to the Court at the time of the arraignment. [Record Nos. 7, 17] The agreement outlined the elements the United States would be required to prove to obtain a conviction and set out the factual basis for the defendant's guilty plea. In relevant part, VanMeter admitted the following:

3.... (a) The Defendant operated two online businesses, both of which were involved in the selling of baking and cake making supplies. As a result of purchases through these businesses, the Defendant would ship products from the business using online postage meter stamps from the United States Postal Service.
(b) From in or about January 2010, and continuing through in or about June, 2011, the Defendant forged or counterfeited postage meter stamp labels from her residence in Shelby County, in the Eastern District of Kentucky. The Defendant used these forged or counterfeit postage meter labels to ship products bought through her businesses. The Defendant created the forged or counterfeited postage meter labels in one of two ways: by altering the amount of postage weight purchased to reflect a greater amount than was actually purchased or by reusing authentic postage stamp labels by cutting and pasting a new customer's name, address, and delivery confirmation over the existing information on a previously used label.
(c) The Defendant admits that she knowingly and intentionally forged or counterfeited multiple packages in this fashion during the time period alleged in the Information and that the total loss amount to the United States Post Office was $180, 000.

[Record No. 17 § 3]

In paragraph 8, VanMeter agreed to waive "the right to appeal and right to attack collaterally the guilty plea, conviction, and sentence." [ Id. § 8] In addition, the parties made non-binding recommendations to the Court regarding calculation of VanMeter's non-binding guideline range for imprisonment. [ Id. § 5] This included a recommendation that the Base Offense Level would be increased ten levels because the loss amount was between $120, 000.00, and $200, 000.00. [ Id. ] Further, a recommendation was made that restitution be imposed in the amount of $180, 000.00. [ Id. ]

B. VanMeter's Presentence Investigation Report and Judgment

The Offense Conduct portion of the Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") outlines additional factual information relevant to calculating the defendant's guideline range for imprisonment and the amount of restitution owed to the United States Postal Service. The PSR states, in part:

6. In May 2010, the United States Postal Inspection Service ("USPIS") was alerted to Karen Packer VanMeter (VanMeter) because she was altering legitimate shipping labels and mailing several packages using the same label. VanMeter would alter the shipping information to the addressee, but failed to alter the tracking number. As a result, multiple mail pieces were associated with one delivery confirmation number, which was not legitimately possible.

7. On May 18, 2010, VanMeter was interviewed by postal inspectors. She was advised that what she was doing was illegal and she signed a Voluntary Discontinuance Agreement stating that she would stop the activity. The agreement also included language that if she failed to cease her activity she would be subject to criminal and civil liability.

8. In January 2011, the USPIS was alerted that a package containing an altered postage label was sent by Bluegrass Hobbies and Records revealed that the principal in both businesses was VanMeter.

** ** **
13. VanMeter admitted to inspectors that she had been counterfeiting postage labels on and off for approximately one and a half years. The defendant indicated that she can print the postage label through PayPal when she clicks payment. The option to select postage, address and pay now appear. Once those items are selected, a mailing label will then pop-up and there is an option to choose multiple labels. VanMeter would then use that label and copy other information into that label and use it to mail to several different people. The defendant indicated that she was unaware of the total amount of money she failed to pay in postage.
14.... PayPal records revealed that VanMeter had received $1, 472, 207.30 since
15.... [D]uring the investigation, the USPIS reviewed mailed parcels for 17 days, two of which nothing was mailed, and were able to ascertain a daily average loss of $600.55. To extrapolate the loss in this case the probation office used a 20 day month times ...

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