Islam’s request to remain free pending his appeal OK’d


The federal court has approved Mohammed Rafiqul Islam’s request that he remain at liberty until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules on his appeal. Islam, who was slapped with an 18-month prison sentence for his participation in a fake jobs scam that targeted Bangladeshis, is appealing his conviction.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge John C. Coughenour approved Islam’s request after determining that Islam poses neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

Islam has been free since the start of the case, has surrendered his passport to the U.S. Probation Office, and does not have the means to obtain a travel document or to flee Saipan.

In making this determination, Coughenour took into account the geography of the island and the difficulty of travel without passport.

In opposing Islam’s motion, the U.S. government cited Islam’s lack of legal status or family on Saipan.

But Coughenour said Islam also has incentive to stay and litigate his conviction, which could bar any future entry to the U.S. He said Islam’s continuous employment before his arrest indicates community ties beyond immediate family.

“Any incentive to flee is clearly outweighed by these considerations and barriers to flight,” Coughenour said.

Finally, Coughenour noted that Islam’s conviction was not for a crime of violence, and supervision while on release is sufficient to assure he does not pose a threat.

The U.S. government asserts that Islam’s appeal is merely intended to delay the case because he may be working illegally.

But Coughenour said regardless of Islam’s legal status or work authorization, his appeal raises substantial issues of law or fact, including evidentiary rulings at trial, the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction, the propriety of the U.S. government’s actions prior and during trial.

Coughenour noted that if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit finds in Islam’s favor on any of these issues, it is likely to reverse or order a new trial.

Last Oct. 18, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Islam of one count of mail fraud and three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with supervised release and other conditions. He was ordered to pay $188,426 in restitution for the victims, jointly with his co-defendant, his brother Muksedur Rahman.

Coughenour allowed Islam to remain at liberty until he is notified by the U.S. Marshal Service to report to prison.

Islam, through counsel Bruce Berline, has appealed his conviction to the Ninth Circuit. He recently asked the District Court for his continued release pending the outcome of his appeal.

Islam’s co-defendants—David Trung Quoc Phan and Muksedur Rahman—were also convicted. Phan was sentenced to eight months in prison, while Rahman was slapped with a 48-month prison term. Phan also appeals to the Ninth Circuit.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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