Cab driver with fake license pleads guilty

A cab driver who later admitted being an overstaying tourist and was found with a fake CNMI driver’s license, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court.

Cong Chen, 28, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting fraud as part of a plea deal.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment fee.

When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom yesterday at 3:15pm, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona was still conducting the change of plea hearing.

Defense counsel Benjamin Petersburg is the court-appointed counsel for Chen. Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe appeared as counsel for the U.S. government.

Chen, through an interpreter, said he came to Saipan as a tourist in April 2017 and extended his stay. He said he paid $1,200 to get a CNMI driver’s license in order to drive a taxi.

Assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley said that a Federal Protective Service inspector saw Chen at the Horiguchi Building in Garapan, who was illegally parked last Wednesday, Nov. 28.

O’Malley said that when the inspector confronted Chen, the defendant presented what appeared to be a fake CNMI driver’s license.

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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