1 of 3 accused of meth trafficking remains detained pending trial


One of three accused of trafficking methamphetamine was not granted early release to a third-party custodian and instead remains detained pending trial.

Last Friday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather Kennedy granted assistant U.S. Attorney Garth Backe’s motion for an order of detention pending trial for Li Hongjie, one of three allegedly involved in trafficking meth through the U.S. Postal Service.

Following the detention hearing Friday, Li was immediately remanded back to Department of Corrections custody.

According to Kennedy, after considering the factors presented at the detention hearing, the court is convinced that Li must be detained pending trial because no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community, and no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure her appearance as required.

In addition, the weight of evidence against Li, lack of employment, lack of stable residence, lack of family and close connections to the CNMI, and lack of legal status in the United States played a factor in the court’s decision to keep Li detained pending trial.

According to court documents, Li and her co-defendants, Wang Huaishu and Ni Yongbing, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a federally controlled substance, and conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises.

As for Wang and Ni, the court previously granted the government’s request for the two to remain detained pending trial.

The three defendants were arrested following an investigation led by the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force. The investigation was launched after the CNMI Customs and Biosecurity Division discovered over two pounds of methamphetamine in a USPS parcel addressed to Li’s post office box in Chalan Kanoa.

In a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, John Henry Sablan, Customs Bureau of Contraband Enforcement captain, said the Customs officers found the two pounds of methamphetamine packed inside a shipment of glass vases.

“The package was in what looked like some temporary cardboard boxes, like our last seizure. The substance was found during a Customs routine inspection at the U.S. Post Office. It was packaged in some chinaware, specifically glass vases,” he said.

After the interception, an investigation into the receiver of the package was launched, which ultimately uncovered a meth den in Papago where another 100 grams of meth were seized. Aside from the drugs, a large sum of cash was also found at the residence.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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