Stockton Muslim cleric sent to prison; deportation likely | News
SACRAMENTO, CA - The spiritual leader of Stockton's largest mosque was sentenced Thursday to one year and one day in federal prison, which will likely trigger deportation upon his release.
Saeed Ur Rahman, 47, imam of the Islamic Center of Stockton, was convicted last year on two felony counts of tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004 and 2005 on the sale of two houses.
The US Attorney's office recommended a 15-month prison term based on a loss to the IRS of $47,000.
Tax evasion resulting in a loss to the government exceeding $10,000 or a prison sentence of one year or longer is considered an aggravated felony for immigration purposes.
Rahman is a Pakistani national and an aggraved felony would trigger an expulsion hearing.
Rahman's attorney, Mark Reichel, attempted to reduce the tax liability below the $10,000 threshold by presenting store receipts and other evidence showing Ur Rahman's capital gain was less than prosecutors claimed.
US District Court Judge Morrison England, Jr. was unimpressed.
"The whole package is not believable," England said. "It's like you're trying to make it worse."
England established the formal loss to the government at $20,000, which he said was charitable.
Although the tax loss alone is grounds for expulsion, Reichel argued for an 11-month prison sentence to give his client a fighting chance at an immigration hearing.
"Deportation is banishment for him," Reichel pleaded. "His five kids and wife are all US citizens."
England responded that Rahman's immigration status is irrelevant to the criminal proceeding.
"This sentence will help promote respect for the law," the judge said.
England ordered Rahman to surrender to US Marshals Jan. 4 to begin serving his prison term.
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Reichel said he believed the prosecution of Rahman was politically motivated and he would appeal the sentence.
Reichel said Rahman's 2002 application for US citizenship was stalled in the wake of 9/11 and he was pressured by the FBI to become a government informant.
Reichel pointed out the 2009 indictment for tax evasion came shortly after Rahman hired an attorney to compel the government to grant him citizenship.
"He never got a notice from IRS, he never had the chance for civil resolution, nothing," Reichel complained. "He just got this indictment for fraud."
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net