Mohammed Rafiqul Islam, one of three defendants convicted by a federal jury for their participation in a scheme of bringing Bangladeshi men to Saipan on promises of jobs and green cards in exchange for cash, is asking the federal court for his continued release pending the outcome of his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Islam, through his court-appointed counsel Bruce Berline, said there is no likelihood that he will flee the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the NMI pending the resolution of his appeal.
Islam said he surrendered his passport to the U.S. Probation Office, he does not have the financial means to flee, and there is no evidence that he possesses sophisticated means to obtain a new travel document or otherwise flee the jurisdiction.
Last Oct. 18, the federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Islam of one count of mail fraud and three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting.
Last March 9, he was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment, with supervised release and other conditions.
U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge John Coughenour allowed Islam to remain at liberty on the same terms and conditions of his pretrial release until such time as he is given notice by the U.S. Marshal Service to report.
Islam recently filed with the District Court a notice of appeal of his conviction to the Ninth Circuit.
In Islam’s motion for release pending appeal, Berline said his client was not convicted of a crime of violence nor of a crime that could be characterized as one which posed or poses a danger to the community.
Berline said Islam’s appeal was not filed for purposes of delay as his appeal raises substantial questions of law likely to result in reversal of his conviction or an order for a new trial.
Berline said Islam challenges on appeal his conviction on several grounds.
First, the lawyer said, erroneous rulings during trial require remand for a new trial.
At trial, he said, the judge allowed the U.S. government to introduce dozens of pages of Bangladeshi bank documents without a determination that such documents were authentic and relevant.
Berline said the judge later erroneously limited questioning of Pamela Brown, who represents the alleged victims in this case with regard to their application for T-visas as victims of trafficking.
Second, Berline said, Islam submits that there was insufficient evidence by the jury to find the defendant committed the offenses of mail fraud and fraud in foreign labor contracting.
Here, the lawyer pointed out, the evidence shows that Islam was merely one of several individuals that United Brothers Inc. hired and petitioned for a CW-1 visa to work as a welder or related tradesman at TBK Auto Care, an auto shop on Saipan.
Berline said Islam has many years of welding experience and his welding certificate was introduced as an exhibit at trial.
Berline said the U.S. government also interfered in Islam’s attorney-client relationship.
The lawyer also asserted that prosecutorial misconduct in closing tainted jury’s verdict and requires a new trial.
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 appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
After the prosecution rested its case during the trial, Phan’s fiancée, Analyn Nunez, and Rahman’s wife, Shahinur Akter, were acquitted. Defendant Zeaur Rahman Dalu pleaded guilty, but he has yet to be sentenced.
According to the U.S. government, each of the victims paid over $10,000, but when they arrived on Saipan in April of 2016, they were not given work as promised.
The government named five victims, all Bangladeshis, in the case.