2 overstaying tourists get time served sentence

The federal court imposed on Friday a time-served prison sentence on two overstaying tourists who entered a guilty plea for lying to Customs and Border Protection that they came to the United States or the CNMI for tourism when in fact their purpose was to work.

Honghui Jie and Haifeng Liu, both Chinese nationals, pleaded guilty to count one of the information charging each of them with improper entry into the U.S. by false statement.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, not more than a five year term of probation, and $10 special assessment fee.

Steven Pixley, court-appointed counsel for Jie, and Benjamin Petersburg, court-appointed counsel for Liu, both recommended a sentence of imprisonment of time served. Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe, counsel for the U.S. government, recommended the same sentence.

Backe informed the court that the defendants may be released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s custody last Saturday for processing and then they will be served a notice to appeal and that could take some time.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has followed the parties’ recommendation to impose a sentence of time-served.

Manglona said upon release from prison, the defendants shall submit to a term of supervised release of six months and comply with conditions as adopted by the court.

The defendants were ordered to pay each a $10 special assessment and to report to the U.S. Probation Office today, Monday.

Manglona said she will allow for the early termination of the supervised release upon actual defendants’ removal from the U.S.

The defendants were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal for the processing of their release papers.

Manglona also granted Backe’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

According to the factual basis of the plea agreement, on July 11, 2016, Liu and Jie entered the U.S. at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. The two, both citizen of the People’s Republic of China, willfully mispresented to immigration inspectors with the CBP that their purpose for entering the U.S. was tourism when in fact, their true purpose was to work.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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