CNMI Foreign Labor Scam Jury Trial Opens In Federal Court

Alien workers claiming they are victims lied, defense attorneys say

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 3, 2017) – The alien workers who claimed to be victims of a foreign labor scam lied about their credentials, defense lawyers said Monday, the first day of trial in federal court.

According to prosecution, the victims were recruited in Bangladesh and promised employment in the U.S. as painters, welders, auto body repairer, drivers and die-cast makers.

The defendants are David Trung Quoc Phan, president of United Brothers, doing business as TBK Auto Cares, who is represented by attorney Steven Pixley; Muksedur Rahman, represented by attorney Robert Torres; MD. Rafiqul Islam, represented by attorney Bruce Berline; Rahman’s wife, Shahinur Akter, represented by attorney Colin Thompson; and Analayn Nunez, document preparer at United Brothers, represented by attorney Janet King.

They were charged with mail fraud, fraud in foreign labor contracting and misuse of visas and permits.

Attorney Robert Torres told the 12-member jury that they would see gaps in the U.S. government’s case against his client. “The government has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Rahman intended to defraud to his benefit,” he said.

The alleged victims, he added, were aware of the working conditions before they arrived in the CNMI, and they lied about their working qualifications so they could work on Saipan.

“They lied intentionally and willfully to the U.S. agencies,” attorney Bruce Berline said. “They lied to get here.”

He said evidence would show that the U.S. government relied on the claims of people who lied.

“It is the government who will fail this case, and you will find that my client Islam is not guilty,” Berline told the jury.

Attorney Colin Thompson, on behalf of Akter, said there could be no guilt by association.

The U.S. government, he added, said the case was about greed so “follow the money and see if any of it went through her [Akter] hands.”

He said “you will not find evidence that she recruited, promised jobs or green cards to the alleged victims.”

Attorney Steven Pixley said his client, Phan, needed skilled workers to rebuild his shop that was destroyed by Typhoon Souledor.

Pixley said Rahman represented to Phan that he could provide him skilled workers from Bangladesh.

Phan was the victim in this case, Pixley told the jury.

The alleged victims lied to Phan about their skills, spoke very limited English, and did not have any skills at all, Pixley said.

The alleged victims “don’t have clean hands — we know that they lied.”

Speaking for Nunez, attorney Janet King told jurors that “the contracts that you will see in evidence that they [alleged victims] provided purported that they studied to be welders, and worked as welders.”

But on their first day on Saipan, she said, “it was clear that they were not welders or auto body shop workers.”

She said it was “apparent that they didn’t have the skills, and they lied in order to come here — they lied to the [U.S.] embassy officials.”

King said testimony of a witness will clear Nunez.

The U.S. government knew that Nunez was not the one who prepared the second CW-1 applications for the complainants, King said.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Benedetto, called special agent Lance Bozzard to the witness stand.

A visa fraud investigator of the U.S. Department of State, Bozzard explained how visa applications are received by the department. “If found fraudulent, the visa application will be denied,” he said.

But he added that he does not have information if the certifications of the complainants were fraudulently acquired or if their documents were fraudulent.

He said an applicant who is found to be misrepresenting any information in the visa application or who provided false statement can be prosecuted.

The sixth defendant, Zeaur Dalu, who helped recruit the workers, has already entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. government.

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