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Jian Li smuggled 22 Chinese into Guam

By Ferdie de la Torre SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 30, 2010) – Jian Li, the person who reportedly recruited 22 Chinese nationals to smuggle them from Saipan to Guam on a boat, entered a guilty plea yesterday.

The 32-year-old Li signed a plea agreement with the U.S. government. He pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to bring an alien to the U.S. The offense carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge David A. Wiseman accepted Li's change of plea and set the sentencing for May 28, 2010 at 9am.

Wiseman directed the U.S. Probation Office to prepare a pre-sentence investigation report.

The judge remanded Li back to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to await his sentencing.

Attorney Joe Hill served as counsel for Li. Assistant U.S. attorney Kirk Schuler represented the U.S. government.

According to the plea agreement, Li told an undercover federal agent acting as a boat captain in October 2009 that he wants to recruit and smuggle aliens from Saipan to Guam by boat.

Li was predisposed to smuggle aliens from Saipan to Guam. He was not induced to do so by the undercover boat captain or the U.S. government.

Li asked co-defendant Qingmei Cheng to translate his conversations and negotiations with the undercover boat captain. Cheng voluntarily agreed to help as translator despite being told the smuggling venture was illegal.

Li recruited the 22 persons and charged a fee for his services.

On Jan. 5, 2010, Li boarded a boat with the 22 alien passengers he recruited, including Junhua Chen, in order to smuggle themselves to Guam.

Chen, himself, and others did not have prior official authorization to enter or reside in Guam, according to the plea agreement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Li and 23 other Chinese nationals on Jan. 5 just as they were about to board the boat for Guam.

Except for one, all pleaded guilty. One defendant proceeded with a bench trial, but then judge Alex Munson found him guilty and subsequently sentenced him to one-year probation.

Li is the last of the 24 defendants to be convicted.

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