Judge denies motion for acquittal, demand for new trial


The federal court denied yesterday the motion for acquittal or for a new trial filed by one of three men who were convicted last October of bringing Bangladeshi men to Saipan on promises of good-paying jobs and green cards in exchange for cash.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge John C. Coughenour said the evidence presented showed that a rational trier of fact could have rejected the argument that complainants manufactured evidence in order to obtain T-visas.

Coughenour said the U.S. government also presented documentary and other evidence that would allow a rational juror to infer Mohammed Rafiqul Islam’s guilt.

The judge noted that there is no evidence that Islam ever worked for United Brothers Inc.

Coughenour further noted that the witness testimony and other circumstantial evidence alone were enough to support the conclusion that Islam intentionally participated in the scheme to defraud.

On the conviction as to fraud in foreign labor contracting charge, Coughenour said a rational juror could conclude from the evidence that Islam participated in the recruitment of complainants by means of false pretenses and representations regarding the jobs they would perform, the skills they would need, and salaries they could expect.

On the issue of sufficiency of evidence, the judge said he finds that Islam was not denied due process by government failure to investigate or to correct false testimony.

On the prosecutorial misconduct issue, Coughenour said that further statements about government prosecution of these crimes explain why the government chose to prosecute Islam and co-defendants and not the complainants for visa fraud and respond to suggestions from the defense that complainants themselves should be criminally prosecuted.

The judge said this did not amount to an inappropriate request for the jury to convict “on the basis of emotion rather than fact” or to “make a statement with their verdict.”

On the alleged cumulative effect of errors, Coughenour said in the context of the entire trial, the prosecutor’s objectionable comments during rebuttal argument did not deny Islam due process or affect the fairness of the trial.

A federal jury found Islam guilty last Oct. 18 of one count of mail fraud and three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting.

The jury found Muksedur Rahman guilty of two counts of mail fraud and three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting.

Rahman and Islam are brothers.

Businessman David Trung Quoc Phan, president of United Brothers Inc., was found guilty of two counts of mail fraud, three counts of fraud in foreign labor contracting, and one count of fraud and misuse of visas and permits.

Coughenour, who presided over the trial, set the sentencing for March 9, 2018.

Islam, through counsel, then filed a post-verdict judgment of acquittal, attacking the sufficiency of the U.S. government’s evidence to support his conviction. In the alternative, he moved for a new trial.

Assistant U.S. attorney James J. Benedetto opposed the motion.

Phan’s fiancée, Analyn Nunez, and Rahman’s wife, Shahinur Akter, were acquitted. Another defendant, Zeaur Rahman Dalu, pleaded guilty.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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