17 Oct 2017
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE lawyers for defendants David Trung Quoc Phan, Muksedur Rahman and Md. Rafiqul Islam called two witnesses to the stand on Monday before resting their case.
The defendants are charged in federal court with mail fraud, fraud in labor contracting, and misuse of visa and permits.
Phan is president of United Brothers, doing business as TBK Auto Cares, while Rahman and Islam are the alleged recruiters.
Called to the witness stand on Monday were Wahedul Islam and the alleged victims’ lawyer, Pamela Brown-Blackburn.
Wahedul Islam, a long-time friend of Md. Rafiqul Islam, testified via video conference from Bangladesh.
Wahedul said one of the workers, Abu Bakkar Beg, came to Wahedul’s house in Dhaka, but the witness said he does not remember Beg’s companion besides Md. Rafiqul Islam.
Wahedul said they stayed in his house for one day. He also told the jury that he did not see any exchange of money between Md. Rafiqul Islam and Beg, but added that they came to his house to process their papers so they could work on Saipan.
Wahedul Islam said he saw the labor recruits — Tazizul Islam, Rafiqul Islam, Abbu Alam, Abu Bakkar Beg, and Belayet Hossain — at a visa processing house in Dhaka.
But he said he did not see any exchange of money between Md. Rafiqul Islam and the workers.
When asked about a recorded phone conversation and transcript accepted by the court as exhibits, Wahedul Islam told the jury that it was not his voice on the recording.
He, however, identified Tazizul Islam’s voice on the recorded phone conversation.
Md. Rafiqul Islam’s lawyer Bruce Berline then called to the stand Pamela Brown-Blackburn, the lawyer of the alleged victims.
Asked whether he talked to the workers about the T visa, Brown-Blackburn testified that it would be remiss on her part if she did not talk to them about it as they are “victims.”
A T visa is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, and allows them to remain in the U.S. to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.
Berline made a motion for mistrial, citing false testimony of the complaining witnesses, but District Court for the NMI designated Senior Judge John C. Coughenour denied the motion.
Berline then asked for acquittal for his client but this was again denied by the judge.
After the defense rested its case, Judge Coughenour gave instructions to the jurors before dismissing them.
Closing arguments will be heard on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.
According to the defense, the workers who claimed to be victims of a foreign labor scam lied about their credentials. “They lied intentionally and willfully to the U.S. agencies — they lied to get here,” the defense said.
According to the prosecution, Rahman, Islam and Zeaur Dalu knowingly recruited workers from Bangladesh, promising them employment in the U.S. as painters, restaurant workers, drivers and die-cast makers in exchange for a fee of up to $15,000 each.
The prosecution said Phan, as president of United Brothers, filed the I-129 CW petitions on the workers’ behalf.
On Thursday, Judge Coughenour dismissed the charges against Analyn Nunez, Phan’s fiancée, and Shahinur Akhter, Rahman’s wife.
Nunez, a document preparer for United Brothers, was accused of mailing fraudulent CW-1 petitions to U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services while Akter was accused of aiding and abetting his husband in a fraudulent scheme to recruit workers from Bangladesh.
Another co-defendant, Zeaur Dalu, has pled guilty to mail fraud and fraud in foreign contracting and has agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99352-defense-calls-2-witnesses-in-foreign-labor-case