Vij Misir, a convicted felon, wants permission to travel abroad for work.
Normally, the request might not qualify as outlandish. Probation officers are generally willing to work with people who are gainfully employed, and usually want to do what they can to keep their felons employed.
Mr. Misir’s case is anything but normal, though.
Do you remember Vij Misir? I do. So do the lawyers at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who oppose his request for international travel rather vigorously.
Misir faked his own death in 2003, you see, and he and his then-wife Rajmatee Kapadia collected a $1.5 million dollars in life insurance money from a South Dakota company and another $495,000 from a different company.
Five years after his “death” from food poisoning in Malaysia, which Kapadia backed up with a phony death certificate and false testimony from supposed witnesses, Misir appeared at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia and tried to renew his passport.
Shortly thereafter, Misir and his wife were charged with mail fraud in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota. Being alive after the commission of a criminal offense does tend to put one back under the jurisdiction of the appropriate authorities.
In any event, Misir was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution.
Because he’d been in jail since 2009, he was given credit for the time he’d served in the Minnehaha County Jail (where he taught yoga and meditation to his fellow inmates) and ended up spending only a year in federal prison in his home state of Florida.
This month, Misir made his request to travel in the form of a “motion to modify conditions of supervised release,” which included a letter from his employer, Signa Energy Solutions of Naples, Fla. Managing Director John Basic Sr. wrote that Misir is a director of operations with “vast knowledge of energy fuels, coal mining, power plants, and construction matters” that have made him “indispensible for the company.”
With potential projects in “Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname and in the Caribbean region,” Signa needs him to travel.
As I said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office doesn’t think this is such a good idea. In a written response to Misir’s request, they ran through the facts of the underlying case, noting that Misir eluded detection by globe-hopping.
They also point out that Signa Energy has only existed since shortly after Misir’s release last July, and that the last name of at least two of the corporate officers matches the last name of the girlfriend Misir had while hiding out in Thailand. They think that’s fishy.
The prosecutors call Misir a “flight risk,” which is the term they use when they’re worried that someone will disappear and fail to live up to their obligations to the court system.
Kapadia doesn’t want Misir to move freely about the globe, either. She’s incarcerated until May, having pleaded guilty to mail fraud, but she apparently caught wind of Misir’s request.
Kapadia’s lawyer also filed a motion in opposition to Misir’s request, saying that he hasn’t paid any child support since his release. That lawyer, Pamela Bollweg, also used the term “flight risk.”
Bollweg writes that Misir owes $45,500 in child support for his 17-year-old daughter (who, by the way, thought her dad was dead until 2009).
On Misir’s side, lawyer Clint Sargent wrote that the probation officer supervising his client approves of the plan, but “it is the policy of her office to only allow international travel with the express permission of the sentencing court.”
Misir made his request on Feb. 25. The government and his ex-wife and co-conspirator filed their opposition motions last week.
The ball is now in the court of U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol.
He sentenced both Misir and Kapadia. I’d bet he remembers the case, too.
Here’s Vij leaving the courthouse on Phillips in 2011.
Here’s Rajmatee putting her coat on. Her lawyer, Pam Bollweg, is the one in blue.