She also removed baggage from Customs custody
A former airport service agent who pleaded guilty to entering a secure area of the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport and removing goods from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2015 was sentenced Friday to 30 days in prison.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered Jingbo Chen, also known as Jingbo San Nicolas or Kim, to be placed on one year of supervised release.
Manglona also ordered the 43-year-old Navy Hill resident to pay a $2,000 fine and a $100 assessment fee.
The indictment, filed in court in August 2016, charged Chen with one count of removing goods from Customs custody and one count of entering a secure area at an airport by false pretenses. Chen pleaded guilty last October to the latter.
According to the indictment, Chen removed baggage in the custody and control of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Sept. 15, 2015. Chen then entered a secure area at the airport.
The investigation revealed that Chen, then an airport service agent for Pacific Oriental Inc., went to the airport in her uniform although it was her dayoff and lied so she could enter a secure area of the airport. Chen then received a bag from an arriving passenger and took it with her through an access door before it could be inspected by CNMI Customs.
The investigation was conducted by Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, with the aid of officers from CNMI Customs and the CNMI Department of Public Safety.
At the sentencing, assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe recommended a 30-day prison sentence and a $2,000 fine. He said this is necessary to punish Chen.
“It is also necessary to send a message to others that airport security and import controls are taken seriously in the Commonwealth and that efforts to evade them will be met with stiff consequences,” Backe said.
Backe said the truth of what the item was and why Chen took such a huge risk to smuggle it is likely something much different.
Backe said that although Chen claims she owned a fashion store from 2014 to 2015, which she purchased for only $10,000, bank records from around the time of the smuggling incident show that the company and Chen were engaging in extremely unusual and suspicious activity.
In fact, Backe said, on the day in question—Sept. 14, 2015—$7,900 in cash was deposited into the A.J. Fashion account in Guam and Chen withdrew $10,000 from it on Saipan.
Backe said the U.S. government has admittedly not determined the exact nature or purpose of these transactions; indeed, the possibility exists these transactions are fully proper and legal.
Therefore, he said, these records are being offered solely to refute Chen’s continued and ridiculous insistence that she was only “helping an arriving passenger and carrying fruit for her pregnant acquaintance.”
Defense counsel Bruce Berline recommended a one-year probation sentence, saying Chen made a one-time mistake.
Berline said Chen has paid for it dearly, and it will stay with her forever in the form of a criminal record.
“A prison sentence is not necessary to deter her or to send a message to the community in any fashion,” he said.
Chen is a full-time, single mother of two, works two jobs, and has no prior convictions. She has been on Saipan for over 20 years.
Berline said Chen knew she was not supposed to enter the secure area of the airport without authorization and that she should not remove anything from the Customs area.
Berline said Chen, however, did not see the harm in helping an arriving Chinese passenger and carrying fruit for her pregnant acquaintance.
Chen in a statement disclosed that a Chinese pregnant woman, whom she met at DFS in Garapan, asked for help as her husband was arriving on Saipan soon and could not speak English well.
The pregnant woman apparently mentioned that her husband was going to try and bring some fruit for her that she had been craving badly during her pregnancy.
Chen said that at the airport, she met her friend’s husband and assisted him in translating to CBP officers.
She said the husband handed her a handbag, which she believed contained fruits.
Chen said she took the handbag as she exited the airport before the CNMI Customs area.
Chen said she brought the handbag to POI’s office, where she left it to meet with her friend’s husband as he exited the airport with his luggage.
Chen said she then drove the husband to his wife, who resided behind the “360 Building in Susupe.” The defendant was referring to 360 Restaurant located at the Marianas Business Plaza.
Chen said she did not receive anything of value or money for assisting her friend’s husband.