Former businessman David Trung Quoc Phan has asked U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge John C. Coughenour to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons to allow him to serve his sentence at home via house arrest, as opposed to putting him in prison in a facility in the U.S. mainland.
Also, since his imprisonment sentence is less than one year, Phan, 56, a U.S. citizen, believes that any incarceration should be served at the Department of Corrections on Saipan rather than off-island in a federal prison.
The U.S. government, however, opposes Phan’s request. Assistant U.S. attorney Eric S. O’Malley said Phan is an adult who should have considered the consequences of his actions and the impact it would have on his family a long time ago.
“It is time for him to truly take responsibility for his actions, to pay his debt to society instead of continuing to consume government resources, and to serve the sentence this court has rendered exactly as it was rendered,” O’Malley said.
On Oct. 18, 2017, a federal jury convicted Phan for his role in a scheme to bring Bangladeshi men to Saipan on promises of jobs and green cards in exchange for cash. He was convicted 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 sentenced him to eight months in prison and two years of supervised release.
Phan appealed his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He also moved for temporary release pending a decision by the Ninth Circuit on his appeal.
The District Court granted Phan’s motion for temporary release last May 2.
Last June 18, the Ninth Circuit affirmed Phan’s conviction and denied his request to rehear the appeal or reconsider its decision.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has extended Phan’s period of release until Nov. 5.
In his recent letter to Coughenour, Phan asked that he be granted work release if he is confined to a correctional facility.
Also, whether he is imprisoned or subjected to house arrest, he asked that that he be allowed and authorized to participate in religious and humanitarian activities that are important to him and his family.
Phan acknowledged that he made errors of judgment that led to his conviction and stated that he is ready to pay the price for those errors by serving his sentence.
Phan said his final available option is to file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a certiorari to review his case, but he hesitates to do so.
Phan has already been serving “probation” since April 2017 up to the present in that his liberty has been restricted and his activities supervised.
Phan has no prior criminal record before his conviction.
He said the offenses that he was convicted of were not a heinous crime. He said the victims suffered substantial financial losses but the court did find that there was no evidence that he received any of the money they lost. Thus, he said, Coughenour did not require him to make a monetary restitution to the victims.
Phan said his business, United Brothers Inc., has been closed since June 2017 due to the severity of the case. He said the company’s tools and assets have been either stolen or destroyed by thieves and vandals.
“I have suffered great distress,” Phan said, adding that his wife is still experiencing stress and trauma after having to go through the trial. His wife, Analyn, was acquitted in the case.
Despite his conviction, Phan has continued to serve his local church and volunteered for humanitarian work, especially during Super Typhoon Yutu’s recovery efforts.
Since his conviction and loss of his company, Phan has been working for a company that is owned and operated by his brother, Ta Bun Kuy, to help support his family and make payments to a loan that he took out to pay for his attorney’s fee in the amount of over $50,000.
Phan said that if he is allowed house arrest or work release, his brother is willing to continue to support his family and make loan payments.
In the U.S. government’s opposition, O’Malley said that, although Phan may not have been aware of the full fraud perpetrated against the victims, he was aware of the frauds he perpetrated against the U.S. government.
O’Malley said the jail sentence rendered is already well below the range recommended by the U.S. Probation Office’s pre-sentence investigation report (33 to 41 months) and the U.S. government’s recommendation of 46 months.
The prosecutor said Phan’s requested recommendation would, in effect, be asking for a punishment lower than which was served by Zeaur Rahman Dalu, who accepted responsibility prior to trial and testified against other co-defendants.
He said this, in turn, undermines the incentive for defendants to accept responsibility and cooperate.
O’Malley said frauds, such as those perpetrated by Phan and his colleagues, continue to plague the CNMI community, besmirching its reputation and siphoning local and federal resources.
He said a “no prison” sentence would signal to all those contemplating similar frauds that these are low-risk crimes—an invitation to future frauds.