United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. Jordan III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
criminal matter is before the Court on Defendant Meera
Sachdeva's Motion to Vacate  filed under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, her Motion for Transcripts , and her Motion
to Appeal . For the reasons that follow, the Motion to
Vacate  is denied in part as to Ground Two. The Court
defers ruling on Ground One and will require Sachdeva's
former attorneys to respond to her allegations on that claim.
The Motion for Transcripts  is denied without prejudice,
and the Motion to Appeal  is considered moot.
was an oncologist who owned and operated the Rose Cancer
Center in Pike County, Mississippi. In that capacity, she
engaged in fraudulent billing schemes that resulted in a
total loss amount of $8, 168, 524.72. Tr.  at 11. The
schemes also jeopardized the health of her patients as she
attempted to reduce expenses while inflating claims. As just
one of many examples, Sachdeva instructed the clinic to reuse
syringes. See Pre-Sentence Report
(“PSR”)  ¶ 87. Then, once under
investigation, Sachdeva took steps to conceal her offenses by
instructing her workers to destroy records, falsify
documents, and lie to the Department of Health. Id.
¶¶ 52, 91, 139.
February 11, 2014, Sachdeva pleaded guilty to Counts 2, 7,
and 9 of the Indictment, with the understanding that the
remaining 12 counts would be dismissed. See Plea
Supp.  ¶¶ I, 2(a). Count 2 charged Sachdeva
with health-care fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1347, and
counts 7 and 9 charged her with making false statements
relating to health-care matters under 18 U.S.C. § 1035.
Motion to Vacate
28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may move under
limited circumstances to “vacate, set aside or correct
the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Here, Sachdeva
waived her right to seek collateral relief under § 2255.
See Plea Agreement  ¶ 7. But an exception
exists to this waiver when-as in this case-the defendant
asserts ineffective assistance of counsel, and the
ineffectiveness “directly affected the validity of that
waiver or the plea itself.” United States v.
White, 307 F.3d 336, 343 (5th Cir. 2002).
establish that an attorney was ineffective, a defendant must
prove that counsel's performance was deficient and
prejudicial. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
687 (1984). On the performance prong, the defendant must show
“that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was
not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. The
prejudice prong in a plea context requires a
“reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
errors, [the defendant] would not have pleaded guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985); see also Lafler v.
Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 163 (2012) (“In the context
of pleas a defendant must show the outcome of the plea
process would have been different with competent
says her attorneys were ineffective because they (1)
misrepresented that she faced life in prison if she refused
to enter a guilty plea and (2) “occasioned a complete
breakdown in the attorney/client relationship.”
Def.'s Mot.  at 1. The first ground requires
additional record development, and the second ground should
be dismissed without a hearing.
first says that her attorneys told her she would face life in
prison if she did not change her plea because the case
“involv[ed] at least one death caused by her medical
clinic.” Id. She goes on to say that
“this misrepresentation was essential to the decision
to decide not to go to trial.” Id. at 3.
Sachdeva's Ground-One allegation of ineffective
assistance of counsel may implicate the validity of the plea
and therefore avoid the waiver contained in the Plea
Agreement. Moreover, the Court must hear from counsel before
determining whether their performance was ineffective.
Government is therefore directed to provide a copy of
Sachdeva's motion and this Order to Robert B. McDuff and
Sibyl C. Byrd, Sachdeva's former attorneys. Those
attorneys are directed to respond within 30 days of this
Order, by written affidavits, to the allegations made by
Sachdeva in Ground One of her motion. The Government shall
file a response to Ground One within 30 days after the
submission of the affidavits. The Court further and
specifically finds that Sachdeva has waived her right to
claim an attorney-client privilege in regard to these
second argument is that “[c]ounsel occasioned a
complete breakdown in the attorney/client
relationship.” Id. at 1. In particular, she
says her attorneys failed to (1) investigate the charges; (2)
hire a handwriting expert that would have rebutted the
charges in Counts 7 and 9; (3) hire a billing expert; and (4)
share discovery with her. But this claim does not fall ...