Medical condition delays start of Budhram’s jail term

Guyanese Sabrina Budhram, who was sentenced to a year in jail for laundering money in the US for drug traffickers in Guyana, has been granted a delay to the start of her prison term because of medical reasons.

Budhram was sentenced in January to serve a year and a day imprisonment by New York Judge Edward Korman. Judge Korman, as a result of Budhram’s petition through her lawyer John Bergendahl, has ordered that she report to the Federal Correctional Institution, Dunbary Camp, to begin her sentence on March 23 instead of Monday, March 9, as was previously ordered.

According to Bergendahl’s letter, Budhram is expected to see her doctor on March 11 for her medical condition though she had tried to have an earlier date so that it would not have interfered with her surrender date. He then asked for a two-week extension for Budhram to voluntary surrender to authorities.

Budhram and her husband Arnold, who was sentenced to three years probation last October, had pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge in the New York court.

In an earlier letter Bergendahl had sought to have his client’s sentence reduced to a non-custodial one as she was the only one who could take care of the couple’s ailing child.

The lawyer had noted that his client spent eight days in custody prior to being granted bail and as such her total sentence is less than one year. He requested that Judge Korman recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that she be “designated for immediate halfway house placement pursuant to the Second Chance Act so that she may continue to care for her child and continue to work to help support her family.”

In a motion late last year, Budhram asked the court for a non-custodial sentence to take care of her child. The motion had said there was no one else in the family who could adequately fulfil the role.

Her request for a reduced custodial sentence was also based on her objection to a pre-sentence report that lists the amount of money laundered by her as US$628,710, saying it inflated the US$30,000($6M) to US$70,000($14M) range set out in her plea agreement.

While Sabrina had admitted to collecting large sums of money from drug traffickers, her husband said he deposited the sums into bank accounts in small sums to avoid filing currency transaction reports (CTR) that help detect money laundering.

Court documents stated that a handwritten “money and drug ledger,” found in Budhram’s home at the time of their arrest, referred to individuals who are believed to be accused drug dealer Roger Khan’s co-conspirators.

The prosecution had told the court that bank records indicated that in 2001, a company associated with the Budhrams transferred money to a bank account in the name of Khan’s relatives and it appeared that Khan was in direct contact with the Budhrams in early 2003.

The Budhrams were arrested and charged with money laundering on April 6, 2004 and investigators searched their home and work offices and gathered a large amount of evidential material. They were granted US$5 million bail each and were placed under electronic monitoring and were not allowed to leave their home without permission except to go to work.

The prosecution had revealed how bank vice-president Arnold Budhram, and the radiology technician Sabrina Budhram, used a company they had set up and their connections to launder money for drug traffickers operating in Guyana.

Sabrina Budhram is the sister of Peter Morgan, who is now facing drug charges in New York after being extradited from Trinidad. Records showed that in at least one case the couple transferred funds in his name.

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