3 defendants in illegal labor scheme found guilty

THREE men charged in an illegal foreign labor contracting scheme were found guilty by a 12-person federal jury on Wednesday.

United Brothers Inc./TBK Auto Cares president David Trung Quoc Phan, recruiters Mohammed Rafiqul Islam and Muksedur Rahman were 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.

Davin Phan. Photo by Bryan Manabat

They are facing a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for mail fraud. For each count of fraud in foreign labor contracting, they are facing a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000. For fraud and misuse of visas and permits, they are facing 10 years maximum imprisonment.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Benedetto and Eric O’Malley prosecuted the case.

After the verdict was announced, Benedetto moved the court to remand the defendants to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. But District Court for the NMI designated Senior Judge John C. Coughenour maintained the pre-trial release condition of the defendants and set their sentencing for March 9, 2018.

Islam and Rahman’s defense lawyers, Bruce Berline and Robert T. Torres, declined to comment while Phan’s counsel, Steven Pixley, said they were disappointed with the verdict.

“I have no comment other than that,” Pixley added. Asked if they will file an appeal, he said they will consider it.

Another defendant, Zeaur Dalu, earlier pleaded guilty to mail fraud and fraud in foreign contracting and testified against his co-defendants.

The charges against two other defendants — Shahinur Akter, Rahman’s wife and Analyn Nunez, Phan’s fiancée — were dismissed by the judge last week.

In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said “the charges in the indictment spring from a scheme to defraud Bangladeshi men by promising them good-paying jobs in the United States, as well as green cards. Each of the victims paid over $10,000, but when they arrived in Saipan in April of 2016, they were not given work as promised.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, and unindicted co-conspirators in Bangladesh recruiting the men, collected large fees from them, and deposited them into the bank accounts of defendants’ family members in Bangladesh. Defendant Muksedur Rahman coordinated the recruitment and employment of the victims from Saipan. A necessary part of the scheme required the purported employer, defendant David Trung Quoc Phan, to mail fraudulent applications to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to obtain CNMI-only work authorization permits. The victims were also ‘coached’ to lie to U.S. Embassy personnel in Dhaka during their visa interviews; the defendants told the victims not to admit they had paid any fees for their jobs, upon pain of losing all the money they had already paid.”

Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Guam and the NMI Shawn Anderson stated: “The CNMI has been plagued by illegal recruitment scams for more than 20 years. They are difficult cases to investigate and prosecute. Every CW-1 permit approved for a sham employer for a non-existent job represents one less nurse at the Commonwealth Health Center, one less power plant operator for the Commonwealth Utilities Commission, or one less worker for the CNMI economy. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue these cases at every opportunity.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said “part of the evidence in the case consisted of official bank records obtained from the government of Bangladesh pursuant to a mutual legal assistance letter request or MLAT prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. The case against defendant Rahman and his co-defendants is the first NMI district case in which foreign evidence has been obtained through the MLAT process.”

Special agents and task force officers from the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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