One of two defendants in a sex trafficking case was slapped with a five-year prison sentence on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
After serving his 60-month sentence, Yanchun Li will be turned over to an immigration official for removal proceedings, according to Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona.
If deportation fails to occur, Li will be required to immediately report to the U.S. Probation Office to begin three years of supervised release.
Li was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay $100 special court assessment fee. He and co-defendant Wei Lin were also required to pay restitution to three victims in the amount of $11,615, $13,570, and $21,730.
Li was immediately remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshal.
At the hearing, assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe recommended a 60-month prison sentence for Li. Defense counsel Mark Scoggins recommended 27 months.
Scoggins stated that, like many others, Li came to the CNMI from China after being promised that he will be given a U.S. immigration status if he could get to Saipan prior to federalization of local immigration.
Scoggins said his client was lured to the CNMI through false promises that he could work and be given U.S. immigration status prior to federalization.
The defense counsel pointed out that Li was not part of the inner circle of conspirators in the offense.
Scoggins objected to the presentence investigation report that included Li among the list of persons who “monitored” the victims.
“The evidence shows that Mr. Li was a driver and nothing more,” Scoggins said in court papers.
In the U.S. government's position, Backe said that Li being a mere driver for the organization and his allegedly limited knowledge of Lin's activities do not entitle him to a “minimal participant” role reduction.
“He transported the victims to and from the commercial sex acts-the very purpose of the sex trafficking conspiracy,” Backe said in court documents.
The prosecutor said Li admitted he knew Lin had confiscated the women's passports and controlled them through debt, yet he transported them anyway.
Backe also disclosed that Li has not cooperated as required under his plea agreement.
The indictment charged Li and Lin with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and to benefit financially from a sex trafficking venture; three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; and one count of financially benefiting from a sex trafficking venture.
Under the scheme, women from China were lured to Saipan on false promises of jobs and then forced into prostitution once they got on the island.
The U.S. government also filed a separate information charging Li with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by fraud, force, or coercion.
Li and Lin signed a plea agreement with the U.S. government and pleaded guilty.