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Court Reverses Illegal Smuggling Conviction

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

A federal appeals court reversed the conviction of a man who smuggled a Pakistani man into the United States, then drove him to board a train to Canada with a fake British passport.

It was part of a scheme for the Pakistani to re-enter the United States (via the United Kingdom) and seek U.S. citizenship with the fake documents, but authorities arrested the men before they reached the Canadian border. Choudry Muhammad Khalil, the smuggler, was sentenced on multiple counts for his crimes.

But the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in United States of America v. Khalil, reversed one count -- for transporting an alien to further an illegal presence in the United States -- because Khalil was driving the man to Canada.

One-Way Ticket

The case stemmed from an enterprise between Khalil and his younger brother Ahmed, who were born in Pakistan and then immigrated to the United States. Soon after, they began an international passport fraud ring, making high-quality identity documents, including passports, driver's licenses, and work permits.

In 2002, they agreed to smuggle Muhammad Nasir Rafique from Pakistan into the United States for $25,000. After he arrived, Rafique wanted to buy a fake British passport because he believed it would help him obtain legal status in the U.S. via the United Kingdom.

In 2010, Khalil arranged for Rafique to get the passport and drove him to a train station in Manhattan. There, Rafique planned to enter Canada en route to the U.K. He didn't make it.

Khalil was indicted, and over his objections a jury convicted him of conspiracy, transportation of an illegal alien, and related crimes. The trial judge imposed a 51-month sentence, and denied a motion for acquittal.

No Further than Canada

Khalil appealed and the Second Circuit reversed one count. The court said there was insufficient evidence to show that he was transporting Rafique to further his unlawful presence in the country.

"Although the Government did present evidence that Khalil drove Rafique to Pennsylvania Station in order to facilitate Rafique's entry into Canada using a fraudulent passport, such a showing alone cannot establish a direct and substantial relationship between the transportation and an act in furtherance of Rafique's unlawful presence in the United States," the court said.

Judge Guido Calabresi, who wrote the opinion, then remanded the case for re-sentencing.

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