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H46LHAMP

Plea

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

 

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------------------------------x

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

 

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v.

17 CR 46 (RA)

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UMAIR HAMID,

 

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Defendant.

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------------------------------x

 

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New York, N.Y. April 6, 2017 10:12 a.m.

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Before:

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HON. RONNIE ABRAMS,

 

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District Judge

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APPEARANCES

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JOON H. KIM Acting United States Attorney for the

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Southern District of New York DAVID M. ABRAMOWICZ

 

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PAUL M. KRIEGER Assistant United States Attorneys

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SMITH VILLAZOR LLP

 

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Attorneys for Defendant BY: PATRICK J. SMITH

 

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RODNEY B. VILLAZOR ANDREW J. RODGERS

 

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ALSO PRESENT: EMILY GRANT, Paralegal

 

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SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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(Case called; appearances taken)

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THE COURT: Good morning. So I understand there may

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be a plea today instead of a hearing; is that correct?

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MR. SMITH: That's correct, your Honor.

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THE COURT:

So before we get to that, why don't we

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talk about the letter that you submitted in February.

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MR. SMITH: Yes, your Honor.

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THE COURT:

So, Mr. Hamid, Mr. Smith -- you can be

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seated; thank you -- submitted a letter in February indicating

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that there exists the possibility that third parties are paying

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fees on your behalf. He also indicated that you had agreed to

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pay the fees of his firm and that the firm was advised that

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your family is agreeing to pay the fees. The government

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responded to that letter.

 

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And I just want to make sure that you understand your

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right to be represented by counsel who are free of any conflict

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of interest. So before you make any final decisions about

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pleading guilty or pursuing the hearing or going to trial, I

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just want to go through those rights that you have with you.

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Do you understand that?

 

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT:

And if at any point you have any

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questions, just let me know.

So the goal, again, is to ensure

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that you're aware of any potential conflict of interest and

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that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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So what I want to do first is just ask you questions

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to ensure that you are competent and they are questions that I

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ask of all defendants in this situation. So I'm going to ask

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my deputy to put you under oath, okay.

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(Defendant sworn)

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THE COURT:

How old are you, sir?

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THE DEFENDANT: I'm 31.

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THE COURT:

And how far did you go in school?

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THE DEFENDANT: I completed my master's degree.

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THE COURT: Are you currently consulting a doctor for

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any condition?

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT:

In the past 24 hours have you drunk any

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alcohol, drugs, or medicine --

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT:

-- or taken any pills?

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT: Is your mind clear today?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: Do you understand what's happening in

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these proceedings?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: All right. Does either counsel have any

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doubt as to the defendant's competence to answer questions

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today with respect to representation of counsel?

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MR. ABRAMOWICZ: No, your Honor.

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MR. SMITH: No, your Honor.

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THE COURT:

All right.

So, Mr. Hamid, are you

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satisfied with the services of Mr. Smith and Mr. Villazor thus

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far in this case?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

 

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THE COURT: And have they informed you that there

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exists the possibility that individuals or entities other than

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yourself or your family may be paying your legal fees?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

 

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THE COURT: And do you understand that the fact that

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their firm may be receiving legal fees for your case from third

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parties could lead them to have loyalties divided between

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yourself and those possible third parties; do you understand

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that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

 

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THE COURT: All right. More specifically, at various

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stages of these proceedings, such as in the pretrial stage

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where we are now, at trial, if it ever gets to that, at

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sentencing, the fact that they are potentially receiving legal

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fees for your case from third parties could result in such

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third parties, directly or indirectly or subtly, trying to

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influence Mr. Smith and Mr. Villazor to furnish legal advice

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that is adverse or against your legal interests, your best

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interests, I should say.

 

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: I'm going to give you a couple examples of

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that, all right.

Are you aware, for example, that if you have

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information about the third party's role in criminal or

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otherwise embarrassing activity, that Mr. Smith and Villazor

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may have an incentive to encourage you not to reveal such

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information to the Court or the government, which could have

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negative consequences for you potentially.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: Are you aware that because of the

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potential third party payments, Mr. Smith and Mr. Villazor may

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have an incentive to encourage you to plead guilty or to elect

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to go to trial because of the way that such a decision could

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reflect on the third parties at issue.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: And are you aware that because of the

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potential third party payments, Mr. Smith and Villazor may have

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an incentive to encourage or discourage you from making certain

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arguments or seeking to admit or object to certain evidence at

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a suppression hearing or trial, if it gets to that, or

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sentencing because such arguments or evidence could reflect

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negatively on the third parties at issue; do you understand

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that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: Do you understand that the Court, having

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presided as the judge in many trials in this courthouse,

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believes that representation where there is a potential

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conflict of interest may be ill advised; do you understand

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that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT:

And I think the greatest danger to you is

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that inability for you to foresee all of the possible conflicts

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that may arise because of any potential payments from third

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parties to Mr. Smith and Villazor's firm.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT:

So tell me in your own words what your

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understanding is of this potential conflict of interest.

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THE DEFENDANT: My counsel did discuss -- I see there

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is a question for conflict of interest and I was made aware by

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my counsel about the source of the money and I know my family

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cannot afford so probably -- I don't know much about how they

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did that, but there could be a conflict, I do understand that.

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THE COURT: Okay. Do you understand that in every

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criminal case, including this one, the defendant, including

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yourself, is entitled to assistance of counsel whose loyalty to

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him is undivided, who's not subject to any factor that might in

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any way intrude upon an attorney's loyalty to his interest. In

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other words, do you understand that you're entitled to an

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attorney who only has your interest in mind and not the

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interest of anyone else; do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: All right. And do you understand that if

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you cannot afford an attorney, one would be appointed at public

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expense free of charge to represent you. I could have someone

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today, for example, come and meet with you.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: Have you received any inducements,

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promises, or threats with regard to your choice of counsel in

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this case?

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT: Have you consulted with Mr. Smith and

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Villazor about the dangers to you of this potential conflict of

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interest?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: So after considering all that I've said

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today about the ways in which the potential payment by third

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parties to Mr. Smith and Villazor of your legal fees may

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adversely affect your defense, do you believe that it's in your

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best interest to continue with Mr. Smith and Villazor as your

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attorney?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT:

Would you -- as I said a moment ago, I can

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have a court appointed attorney here this morning even just to

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consult with you before you proceed in this matter.

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Would you like to consult with someone else?

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT: Do you want to confer privately any

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further with Mr. Smith or Mr. Villazor about this matter? Do

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you want to talk to them any more before you proceed?

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THE DEFENDANT: No, I don't.

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THE COURT: Do you understand that by choosing to

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continue with them as their attorneys, you are waiving or

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giving up your right to be represented solely by an attorney

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who has no potential conflict of interest; do you understand

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that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: And are you knowingly and voluntarily

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waiving your right to representation that is free of potential

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conflict?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT:

Okay.

So, again, I'm going to ask the

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same question a different way. Do you agree to waive any

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potential conflict that may flow from the possibility that

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someone else is paying for their legal fees?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT:

And do you agree to waive any post

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conviction argument or appeal or otherwise that by virtue of

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the fact that Mr. Smith and Villazor's firm's potential receipt

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of your legal fees from third parties that you were denied

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effective assistance of counsel?

 

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: Is there anything that I've said that you

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have any confusion about?

 

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THE DEFENDANT: No.

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THE COURT:

All right.

So are you ready to proceed in

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this matter?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

 

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THE COURT: So I understand now that you seek to plead

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guilty to the indictment in this case. Is that correct?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, my Honor.

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THE COURT: Now, before deciding whether to receive

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your plea, I'm going to ask you some more questions, but this

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time to make sure that you understand your rights, additional

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rights, and that you're pleading guilty voluntarily and because

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you are guilty and not for some other reason.

So it's

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important that you answer all of my questions honestly and

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completely and, again, if you don't understand anything I'm

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saying or at any time would like to speak to your attorneys,

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let me know, okay.

All right.

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Have you had enough time and opportunity to discuss

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your case with your attorneys, including the nature of the

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charges that -- the charge that you intend to plead guilty to,

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any possible defenses, and the rights that you'll be giving up?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I did, my Honor.

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THE COURT: Have your attorneys discussed with you the

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consequences of pleading guilty?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, they did.

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THE COURT:

And I think we just covered that, but are

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you satisfied with their representation of you?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, very satisfied.

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THE COURT:

So now what I'm going to do is explain

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certain constitutional rights that you have to you. These are

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rights you would be giving up if you enter a guilty plea.

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First, under the Constitution and laws of the United

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States, you have a right to plead not guilty to the charge in

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the indictment.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: And if you did plead not guilty, you would

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be entitled under the Constitution to a speedy and public trial

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by jury of those charges.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: In advance of trial, you would have the

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opportunity to seek to suppress any or all of the evidence

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against you on the basis that it was obtained in violation of

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the Constitution, and you're giving that up. You were about to

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have a suppression hearing, but you're giving up your right to

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suppress that evidence.

 

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: At trial you'd be presumed to be innocent

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and that means that you would not have to prove that you're

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innocent. Instead, the government would need to prove your

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guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before you could be found

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guilty. So even if you did nothing and said nothing at trial,

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you could not be convicted unless a jury of 12 people agreed

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unanimously that you are guilty.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: During trial, the witnesses for the

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prosecution would have to come to court and testify in your

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presence where you could see them and hear them and your lawyer

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could cross-examine them. If you wanted to, your lawyer could

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offer evidence on your behalf. You'd be able to use the

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court's power to compel witnesses to come to court, to testify

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truthfully in your defense, even if they didn't want to come.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT:

At trial, you would have the right to

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testify if you wanted to, but you'd also have the right not to

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testify. And if you chose not to testify, that could not be

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used against you in any way. No inference or suggestion of

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guilt could be made from the fact that you did not testify.

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Do you understand that?

 

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT:

At trial and at every stage of your case,

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you'd be entitled to be represented by an attorney, and as I

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said a moment ago, if you could not afford an attorney, one

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would be appointed at public expense, meaning free of cost, to

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represent you.

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Do you understand that?

 

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT:

As I said before, you have the right to

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plead not guilty.

So even as you sit here right now for

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purposes of entering a guilty plea, you have the right to

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change your mind and to go to trial.

But if you do plead

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guilty and I accept your plea, there will be no trial and

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you'll be giving up the rights that I just described.

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Do you understand that?

 

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: If you plead guilty, all that will remain

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to be done is for me to impose sentence.

I'll enter a judgment

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of guilty and I'll sentence you on that basis after considering

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whatever submissions I get from your lawyer and from the

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government and from you, as well as a presentence report

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prepared by the probation department. But there will be no

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appeal with respect to whether the government could use the

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evidence it has against you or with respect to whether you did

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or did not commit the crime.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: If you plead guilty, you'll also have to

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give up your right not to incriminate yourself because I'm

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going to ask you questions here in court today in order to

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satisfy myself that you are in fact guilty.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: So I understand that you seek to plead

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guilty to Count One of the indictment in this case, which

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charges you with conspiracy to commit mail fraud from at least

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in or about 2006, up to and including in or about

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December 2016, in violation of Title 18, United States Code,

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Section 1349.

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Do you understand that?

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MR. SMITH: Pardon me, your Honor. It's actually

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conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

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THE COURT: I'm sorry, the plea agreement says mail

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fraud. Is that incorrect?

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MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Your Honor, the plea agreement does

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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appear to be incorrect. It should say wire fraud.

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THE COURT:

All right. Thank you.

I'm going to

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ask -- can I have a copy of the indictment, please.

Thank you.

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So I am going to make that correction on the plea

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agreement. Thank you. All right.

 

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Mr. Abramowicz, could you please state the elements of

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the offense in question.

 

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MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor. The elements of

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conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code,

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Section 1349 are, first, that two or more persons entered an

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unlawful agreement, in this case an agreement to commit wire

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fraud; and, second, that the defendant knowingly and willfully

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became a member of that conspiracy. The object of the

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conspiracy charged here was, as I said, to commit wire fraud in

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violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.

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The elements of that offense are, first, that there

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was a scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain money or

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property by materially false and fraudulent pretenses,

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representations, or promises; second, that the defendant

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knowingly participated in the scheme or artifice to defraud

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with knowledge of its fraudulent nature and with specific

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intent to defraud; and, third, that in the execution of that

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scheme, interstate or foreign wires were transmitted or caused

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to be transmitted.

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In addition, your Honor, at the trial, the government

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would be required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence

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that venue is proper in the Southern District of New York.

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THE COURT:

All right. Thank you.

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So, Mr. Hamid, do you understand if you were to go to

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trial, the government would need to prove each of those

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elements beyond a reasonable doubt other than venue, which has

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a lower standard of proof.

 

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT:

Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to

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discuss the maximum possible penalties for this crime. The

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maximum means the most that could possibly be imposed. It

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doesn't necessarily mean it is the sentence you will receive,

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but you have to understand that by pleading guilty, you'll be

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exposing yourself to the possibility of receiving any

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combination of punishments up to the maximums.

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So, first, with respect to your liberty, the maximum

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term of imprisonment for this crime is 20 years in prison.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: Any term of imprisonment could be followed

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by a term of supervised release of up to three years.

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Supervised release means that if you're sentenced to prison,

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after your release from prison you'll be subject to the

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supervision of the probation department. You'll be required to

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obey certain rules, and if you violate those rules, you can be

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returned to prison without a jury trial to serve additional

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time even beyond your original sentence.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: You should also understand that there's no

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parole in the federal system so if you're sentenced to prison,

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you will not be released early on parole, although there's a

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limited opportunity to earn credit for good behavior.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: In addition to these restrictions on your

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liberty, the punishment for this crime also includes certain

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financial penalties. The maximum allowable fine is $250,000 or

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twice the gain you received from the crime or twice the loss to

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any victims, whichever is greater. I'm also required to impose

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a mandatory special assessment of $100.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: In addition I must order restitution to

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any persons or entities injured as a result of your criminal

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conduct, and I can order you to forfeit all property derived

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from the offense or used to facilitate the offense.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: So do you understand that those are the

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maximum penalties for this crime?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: You should be aware that the punishments

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I've just described are those that may be part of a sentence,

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but being convicted of a felony may have other consequences.

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You are not a United States citizen, correct?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I'm not.

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THE COURT: So you should understand that as a result

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of your guilty plea, you may be removed or deported from the

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United States; and, in certain circumstances, removal or

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deportation may be likely or even mandatory.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

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THE COURT: Do you also understand that in the future,

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you may be denied admission or citizenship into the United

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States. Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: Have you discussed the possible

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immigration consequences of your plea with your attorney?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: Now, in imposing sentence, judges are

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required to consider the recommendations of the federal

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sentencing guidelines. The guidelines are a complicated set of

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rules for determining an appropriate sentence. And although at

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one time judges were bound by the guidelines, now they're only

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advisory. Nonetheless, judges must take into account the

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guidelines when determining an appropriate sentence. But in

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the end, the judge is required to give the sentence that she

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believes best satisfies the purposes of the criminal law under

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a provision of the law -- it's 18 United States Code Section

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3553(a) -- even if that's higher or lower than the guidelines

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recommendation.

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Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, yes, ma'am.

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THE COURT: Have you discussed the sentencing

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guidelines with your attorneys?

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THE DEFENDANT: I did.

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THE COURT: Do you understand the guidelines are only

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recommendations to the Court?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, my Honor.

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THE COURT: I understand that you have entered into a

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written plea agreement with the government. It's dated

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April 4, addressed to your attorneys, signed by Mr. Abramowicz

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and Mr. Krieger.

And I am going to mark this as Court

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Exhibit 1.

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So is this the agreement you entered into with the

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government?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: Is that your signature on the last page?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, it is.

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THE COURT: Before signing it, did you read it?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: Did you discuss it with your attorneys?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: I understand it's a long document.

It

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contains some technical legal language. But after discussing

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it with your attorneys, do you understand all the terms of this

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agreement?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

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THE COURT: I'm going to ask the government to

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summarize the agreement, please.

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MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor. Under this

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agreement, the defendant is agreeing to plead guilty to Count

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One of the indictment, which charges conspiracy to commit wire

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fraud. The defendant is also admitting the forfeiture

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allegations that correspond to that count and he is agreeing to

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forfeit a sum of money equal to $5,303,020.95. The defendant

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is also agreeing to pay restitution in that same amount to any

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victims who lost money as a result of this fraud.

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In addition, under this agreement, the parties have

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agreed between each other to how the sentencing guidelines

23

would be calculated. The parties agree that there would be an

24

offense level of 26 and that because the defendant has no

25

criminal history, he would be in criminal history category I.

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And the parties have thus stipulated that the applicable

2

guidelines range is 63 to 78 months in prison. Both parties

3

are entitled to seek a variance from that range. However, the

4

parties have agreed that they will not seek any departures from

5

that calculation.

6

The defendant has also acknowledged that he

7

understands the immigration consequences of his plea because he

8

is not a citizen of the United States. And he has acknowledged

9

that he is entering into this plea agreement and agreeing to

10

plead guilty because he is in fact guilty of the offense

11

charged in Count One of the indictment.

12

I can leave it at that unless there's any other

13

provision your Honor would like me to summarize.

14

THE COURT:

I'm just going to follow up on a few

15

things.

16

Mr. Hamid, do you have any questions so far?

17

THE DEFENDANT: No.

18

THE COURT: I want to make sure you understand this

19

agreement doesn't bind me, the Court, in any way. I'm required

20

to make my own independent calculation under the sentencing

21

guidelines and to impose a sentence that I believe is

22

appropriate in your case. But even if my calculation differs

23

from that you've agreed to with the government, you won't be

24

allowed to withdraw your plea.

25

Do you understand that?

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THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

2

THE COURT: Do you also understand -- Mr. Abramowicz

3

referred to this -- but under this agreement, you're giving up

4

your right to appeal or otherwise challenge your sentence so

5

long as I sentence you to 78 months of imprisonment or less?

6

So if I sentence you to more than 78 months in prison, you have

7

the right to appeal.

But if I sentence you to 78 months in

8

prison or less, you can't appeal or otherwise challenge this

9

agreement.

10

Do you understand that?

11

THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

12

THE COURT: Do you also understand that you cannot

13

appeal or otherwise challenge your conviction or sentence on

14

the basis of any actual or perceived immigration consequences,

15

including deportation, resulting from your guilty plea or

16

conviction.

17

Do you understand that?

18

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

19

THE COURT: And you're also waiving other rights of

20

appeal, including the right to appeal or challenge your

21

conviction based on the government's failure to disclose any

22

exculpatory or other discovery material that was not produced

23

before the date of your agreement.

24

Do you understand that?

25

THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

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THE COURT: Did you willingly sign this agreement?

2

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

3

THE COURT: Has anyone threatened, bribed, or forced

4

you either to sign the plea agreement or to plead guilty?

5

THE DEFENDANT: No, your Honor.

6

THE COURT: Other than what's in this plea agreement,

7

has anyone offered you any inducement to plead guilty?

8

THE DEFENDANT: No -- I couldn't get that.

9

THE COURT: Other than what's in the agreement, has

10

anyone offered you any inducement to plead guilty?

11

THE DEFENDANT: No.

12

THE COURT:

Has anyone made any promise to you as to

13

what your sentence will be? Has anyone promised you what your

14

sentence will be?

15

THE DEFENDANT: No, definitely not.

16

THE COURT:

Because I just want to make sure if anyone

17

even attempted to predict what your sentence will be, that

18

could be wrong.

So even if your sentence is not what you hope

19

for or expected, you still won't be allowed to withdraw your

20

plea.

21

Do you understand that?

22

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

23

THE COURT: I also have here a consent preliminary

24

order of money judgment of forfeiture. That was Exhibit A to

25

the plea agreement. Did you sign this as well, this consent

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order of forfeiture?

2

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.

3

THE COURT: Do you understand that you're consenting

4

to a money judgment in the amount of $5,303,020.95; do you

5

understand that?

6

THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

7

THE COURT: So now that you've been advised of the

8

charges against you and the possible penalties you face and the

9

rights you're giving up, is it still your intention to plead

10

guilty?

11

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, my Honor.

12

THE COURT:

So now I'm going to ask you the official

13

question: How do you plead with respect to Count One of the

14

indictment, the conspiracy to commit wire fraud, do you plead

15

guilty or not guilty?

16

THE DEFENDANT:

Yes, I do.

17

THE COURT: You plead guilty?

18

THE DEFENDANT: I plead guilty.

19

THE COURT:

Now tell me in your own words what you did

20

that makes you believe that you're guilty of this crime.

21

THE DEFENDANT: While still studying, completing my

22

master's in Karachi, Pakistan, I began to work at Axact, a

23

technology service company, in Pakistan, I joined. They had

24

like ten different line of businesses, one of which was online

25

education. My role was payment processing and setting up bank

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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H46LHAMP

Plea

 

1

accounts for them. We provided hosting and payment processing

2

services to clients that includes hosting of e-learning

3

platforms for our clients and earned commission for these

4

services that we provide. Because my English was good, I also

5

served as a business contact with some of the company's

6

business partners and clients. I often used pseudo names when

7

I served in this role.

8

Over time I began to learn that some -- some customers

9

of our clients' websites complained about things like

10

acceptance and asked for refunds. Over time I began to

11

understand that some of the clients' statements on the websites

12

were misleading. While we did host -- while we did host some

13

online education courses, the degree program websites run by

14

clients mostly were not real universities or colleges with real

15

coursework.

16

THE COURT: Were what?

I'm sorry. Were not

17

universities or colleges but --

18

THE DEFENDANT: -- with real courseworks, like with

19

real programs.

20

THE COURT: Okay.

21

THE DEFENDANT: So were not there. So despite this,

22

they offered a service for a fee where customers of the

23

clients' websites could get their degrees authenticated from

24

government agencies like Department of State or Appostille.

25

In 2015, using the name Shah Khan, I corresponded by

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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Plea

 

1

email and spoke to Brett Howard Loebel, who ran a website

2

called Almeda University. The revenues from Almeda were

3

divided. I understood that the representations on the Almeda

4

websites were misleading. In 2015 and 2016, I tried to have

5

Loebel, Mr. Loebel, pay over money that had come from operating

6

Almeda's websites before my employer was shut down in Pakistan.

7

I knew that some of this money came from people who were misled

8

about whether Almeda was a real school that was authorized to

9

issue real degrees or their degrees will be accepted.

10

 

That's all, my Honor.

 

11

THE COURT:

All right.

When you did this, did you

12

know that what you were doing was wrong and was illegal?

13

 

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

 

14

THE COURT: Does the government want me to ask any

15

additional questions or make any proffer as to venue?

16

 

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor. The government can

17

proffer that there is evidence that among the victims who

18

purchased -- who paid money for education that they didn't

19

receive and thus received fraudulent degrees were victims who

20

resided in the Southern District of New York.

21

 

May I have one moment, your Honor?

22

THE COURT:

Yes.

And just let me ask Mr. Smith, is

23

the defendant contesting venue?

 

24

 

MR. SMITH: No, your Honor.

25

(Pause)

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1

THE COURT: Are there additional questions I should

2

ask, Mr. Abramowicz?

3

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor, if we could just

4

clarify that the clients Mr. Hamid referenced who made

5

misrepresentations, that those were clients of Axact, the

6

company Mr. Hamid was working for.

 

7

THE COURT:

All right.

Is that right, Mr. Hamid, were

8

those clients of Axact?

9

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, the company I work for.

10

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Nothing further.

11

THE COURT: Okay. All right. Mr. Abramowicz, could

12

you please summarize what the government's evidence would be if

13

you were to go to trial against Mr. Hamid.

14

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor.

At a trial, the

15

government's evidence would include recorded telephone calls in

16

which Mr. Hamid discussed bank accounts used to collect money

17

from individuals who bought fake educational credentials. It

18

would include records relating to various bank accounts,

19

including video of Mr. Hamid opening a bank account that

20

received proceeds from the fraud, as well as bank statements

21

indicating that proceeds of the fraud in accounts that

22

Mr. Hamid opened, controlled, or directed to be opened, totaled

23

approximately $5.3 million. It would also include email

24

correspondence in which Mr. Hamid and others discussed websites

25

of purported educational institutions that did not exist, as

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1

well as testimony from individuals who received online

2

educational degrees they had not earned and from employers who

3

were defrauded by these phony educational credentials.

4

THE COURT:

Okay. Thank you.

5

Do both the government and defense counsel agree that

6

there's a sufficient factual predicate for the guilty plea?

7

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Yes, your Honor.

8

MR. SMITH: Yes, your Honor.

9

THE COURT: So, Mr. Hamid, because you acknowledge

10

that you're in fact guilty as charged in Count One of the

11

indictment and because I'm satisfied that you understand your

12

rights, including your right to go to trial, and that you're

13

aware of the consequences of your plea, including the sentence

14

which may be imposed, and because you are knowingly and

15

voluntarily pleading guilty, I accept your guilty plea to Count

16

One of the indictment.

17

The probation department is going to want to interview

18

you in connection with the presentence report that I mentioned

19

earlier.

20

Mr. Smith, would you like to be present for that

21

interview?

22

MR. SMITH: Yes, your Honor.

23

THE COURT: If you choose to speak to the probation

24

department, Mr. Hamid, please make sure that everything you say

25

is truthful and accurate. I'll read that report very

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300

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1

carefully. It will be important to me in deciding what

2

sentence to impose. If there are any mistakes in it or errors,

3

please raise it with your attorney. That can be raised with me

4

before sentencing and at sentencing.

 

5

 

And why don't we schedule a date for sentencing. How

6

about July 21 at 3 o'clock.

Does that work?

7

 

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: That's fine for the government.

8

MR. SMITH: Fine, your Honor.

21st, 3 o'clock.

9

THE COURT:

July 21 at 3 o'clock.

10

The government shall provide the probation officer

11

with its factual statement within seven days. Defense counsel

12

shall arrange for the defendant to be interviewed by the

13

probation department within the next two weeks.

14

 

I'll refer counsel to my individual rules and

15

practices in criminal cases available on the court website

16

which contain some rules regarding sentencing submissions. In

17

accordance with those rules, defendant's submissions are due

18

two weeks prior to sentencing; the government's submission, one

19

week prior to sentencing.

 

20

 

And the defendant shall remain in custody pending

21

sentence.

22

 

Are there any other applications at this time?

23

MR. SMITH: Not from the defense, your Honor.

24

MR. ABRAMOWICZ: Not from the government.

25

THE COURT: Thank you. We're adjourned.

SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS, P.C. (212) 805-0300