Federal judge uphold's tax cheat's prison sentence

By Jon Campisi | Apr 17, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has denied a pro se motion for post-conviction relief that was filed by a prison inmate who was sentenced to jail time after being convicted of filing false income tax returns.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick denied the habeas corpus motion that had been filed by Vladimir Roudakov, who was sentenced to 24 months in prison after he was found guilty of filing false federal income tax returns in 2005.

The conviction was upheld by the Third Circuit U.S. Appeals Court in 2007.

Roudakov claimed in his motion for relief that he was denied the due process of law during his appeal because parts of the trial record were missing, that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective, and that the government failed to prove the elements of the crimes for which he was convicted.

According to the ruling, Roudakov’s appeal to the Third Circuit was based on an allegation that the federal trial court had erroneously calculated the proper tax loss for his crimes, and therefore incorrectly calculated his sentencing guidelines range.

The federal appeals court affirmed the district court’s ruling, although it only discussed the issue of alleged improper tax loss calculation in its affirmation.

In his April 13 ruling, Surrick wrote that it’s not clear how additional trial transcripts would have impacted the Third Circuit’s handling of the issue.

“Petitioner’s direct appeal was based on a sentencing calculation question, which the Third Circuit determined that this Court had answered correctly,” Surrick wrote. “The Third Circuit had no difficulty dealing with the issue knowing of the unavailability of some of the trial transcripts. Since Petitioner has not demonstrated how additional transcripts would have led to a different result, his first claim must be denied.”

As for Roudakov’s ineffective counsel claim, Surrick determined that, in part, it lacked specificity, writing that Roudakov does not allege the government withheld evidence or otherwise “impeded” his access discovery, but rather that his counsel simply did not request discovery.

“He does not claim that the Government failed to turn over material evidence,” Surrick wrote. “Since Petitioner does not point to any actual prejudice that he suffered as a result of trial counsel’s alleged failure to request discovery, his claim of ineffective assistance must be denied.”

Surrick also wrote that the claim of ineffective appellate counsel lacks merit, since Roudakov cannot demonstrate that his attorney’s alleged ineffectiveness caused him prejudice.

On Roudakov’s claim that the government failed to prove two elements of the indictment – one concerning the amount of money in dispute and the second that Roudakov cashed a single check and received any funds – Surrick again ruled that the allegations lacked merit.

Surrick, who ruled that these claims were “frivolous,” wrote that the government did, indeed, prove the disputed amount of money involved, and that Roudakov cashed checks from his computer business, Payless Concepts Source, at a check-cashing agency and that the money was not properly reported on for his tax returns.

In denying Roudakov’s motion, Surrick also ruled that there is no basis on which to hold an evidentiary hearing and no basis on which to issue a certificate of appealability.


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