The male supervisor of Beilida Overseas (CNMI) Ltd., was sentenced Friday to one year and six months in prison for harboring illegal workers who worked on the casino and resort project of Pacific Imperial International CNMI LLC in Garapan.
Wencai Guo, 45, was given credit for time served and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $100 in court assessment fee.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona exonerated the $10,000 cash bail that Guo posted for his temporary release and applied the amount to pay for the $5,000 fine and $100 assessment fee.
Robert T. Torres, counsel for Guo, later said they appreciate that the court is concerned about the seriousness of the offense of harboring unlawful aliens and exposing the workers to harm.
Torres said they also appreciate that the court recognized that Guo is a person of good character and that he didn’t want to harm these workers.
Torres had pushed for a sentence of eight months of time served. “We appreciate the fair consideration today and Mr. Guo is glad that it is over and someday soon he will return home to his family,” Torres said.
Guo is a Chinese national.
Manglona was initially inclined to impose the high end in the sentence but imposed the mid-range of 18 months instead because of Guo’s situation, his assistance to investigators, and acceptance of responsibility.
The sentence range was 15 months to 21 months of imprisonment.
Manglona believes that Guo is sincere and that she reviewed his background contained in the pre-sentence investigation report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Manglona said she finds that Guo did not intend to do criminal conduct on Saipan, but was put in a situation, according to his lawyer.
Assistant U.S. attorney James Benedetto had recommended the low end of 15 months imprisonment.
Manglona granted Benedetto’s motion to dismiss the remaining charges as well as the criminal complaint as part of the plea deal.
Manglona said Guo received $4,000 in monthly salary, which is big amount in China and in the CNMI.
The judge said the big salary was hard for the defendant to resist.
Guo broke into tears when he spoke in court and mentioned that his wife and their three children have been waiting for him in China.
“I sincerely apologize for my behavior,” said Guo through an interpreter.
He said he was involved and participated in harboring illegal workers.
He said the unlawful workers were not paid U.S. law and benefits.
He said he only tried to protect his countrymen.
“I sincerely apologize,” Guo said.
He said feel sorry for Yuanhou Yu, a worker who died from a fall at the construction site, and his family.
Guo said he was not the one who hired the unlawful workers.
Torres said there was a necessity to expedite the project and hundreds of Beilida workers were employed, but really the purpose of employment was to work at the Imperial Pacific Casino Resort construction site.
Torres said there was the pressure to complete the project and that Guo had to do it or risk retribution or go home.
Torres said that during the death of Yu, Guo was not on duty and was not responsible for Yu’s death, although he was part of the team that was responsible for exposing harm to the workers.
Torres said Guo accepted responsibility, pleaded guilty, and assisted investigators in the investigation of the case.
Last September, Guo pleaded guilty to count 2 of the indictment charging him with harboring illegal aliens.
Benedetto said that, between Feb. 7, 2017, and March 22, 2017, Guo supervised over 100 workers at the Best Sunshine casino project.
Benedetto said at least 24 aliens were overstaying their parole status.
Benedetto said the aliens, who were admitted to the U.S. or the CNMI as tourists, were not authorized to work.
Benedetto said Guo knew that at least 24 under his supervision were overstaying tourists.
The prosecutor said in a search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the offices of Beilida, the FBI discovered spreadsheets in Chinese titled “Beilida Complete Personnel Accommodation Statistics Chart,” which listed over 150 workers as hei gong, a term to mean “undocumented worker.”
Benedetto said Guo knew that there were inspectors such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would visit the construction site from time to time.
He said Guo would tell his team leaders or lieutenants that they should not come to work for a couple of days to avoid being detected by authorities at the site.
Benedetto said that, by doing so, team leaders, including Guo, would get bonus payments.
Guo admitted that he indeed supervised hei gongs or undocumented workers and that he told them to avoid from being detected by authorities.
Guo and co-defendant Xiufang Qi, both of Beilida Overseas, were stopped from leaving the CNMI at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport on April 5, 2017. They were bound for China.
MCC was a construction contractor for Imperial Pacific’s multi-million-dollar casino and resort project. Beilida Overseas was one of the subcontractors.
The other defendants are MCC International project manager Yuqing Zhao, Beilida Overseas president and director Hui Lu, and Beilida’s Hongwei Ma.
A separate indictment charged Zhao with harboring illegal aliens. Of the five, only Lu has yet to be arrested.
The indictment alleged that on March 8 through 22, 2017, Ma, Lu, and Guo harbored an illegal alien, Yuanhou Hu, by shielding him from detection.
Hu, a Chinese national, died after falling from a scaffold at the casino/resort construction site last March 22.
On Feb. 7 through March 22, 2017, Ma, Lu, Guo, and Qi allegedly harbored six illegal aliens.
A separate indictment alleges that beginning on Aug. 1, 2016, and continuing until March 31, 2017, Zhao harbored 15 illegal aliens.
Zhao had already entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful employment of aliens and was slapped with a six-month prison term.