Defendant held for bulk cash smuggling charge
Federal agents arrested Friday at the Francisco C. Ada International Airport a man bound for Shanghai, China, who was allegedly found with $20,000 cash concealed in his hand-carried luggage.
Delin Ma, 52, a Chinese national, was taken to the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday afternoon to face a bulk cash smuggling charge. His job on Saipan was not specified in the report.
Ma appeared with court-appointed counsel Mark Hanson. Assistant U.S. attorney Russell Lorfing appeared for the U.S. government.
Ma told the court, through an interpreter, that he wants to hire an attorney, but he has no one specific in mind as yet.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona told Ma that Hanson will be allowed to represent him as his court-appointed counsel in the matter of detention, but if he still wishes to get his own lawyer, that attorney must request to do so and inform the court.
Preliminary hearing will be on Feb. 27 at 10am.
The judge reminded Ma that if he wants to continue to have Hanson represent him, he is required to complete the financial affidavit with the probation office.
Probation officer Margarita Wonenberg told the court that Ma declined to be interviewed so there was nothing to report on his financial status or his ability to pay for an attorney.
The judge remanded Ma into the custody of the U.S. Marshal pending the detention hearing, which was scheduled for yesterday afternoon.
Special agent Michael D. Lansangan of the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations stated in his report that he received on Thursday, Feb. 12, an electronically generated database system notification that a subject of interest to law enforcement agencies on Saipan was scheduled to depart the CNMI on Friday, Feb. 13, aboard Sichuan Airlines flight 3U-8648.
Lansangan said he learned that the flight was scheduled to depart the Saipan airport Friday at 6:10am and fly directly to Shanghai, China with no stops in between.
Lansangan said he and another HSI special agent met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisory officer Mark Layman at the airport to coordinate an outbound currency enforcement operation, to be initiated by CBP officials.
Lansangan said the intent of this operation was to inform passengers on flight 3U-8648, including the subject of the investigation, about the currency reporting laws of the U.S.
Under the currency reporting laws, a person is required to report any amount of currency $10,000 and over when traveling out of or into the U.S.
At about 5:04am Friday, Lansangan saw the subject of interest seated in the waiting area of departure gate 5 at the airport. The man was seated next to an Asian male, later identified as Ma, who was using his Chinese passport.
At 5:25am, Lansangan saw Ma walk from departure gate 5 to departure gate 4, where flight 3U-8648 was scheduled to depart.
After several minutes, Lansangan saw CBP officer Salas speaking with Ma. CBP officers assisted in communicating with Ma by a person he recognized as a POI Aviation interpreter and service representative for Chinese passengers.
At 5:45am, Lansangan saw Layman and CBP officer Salas escort Ma, the subject of interest, and another unidentified male passenger out of the jetway and back into the gate 5 waiting area.
Lansangan later saw Salas retrieve a pair of pants from a hand-carried bag in Ma’s possession and shake the pair of pants out. Lansangan said he saw a white-colored envelope fall out of the pants.
Salas took another pair of pants out of Ma’s luggage and discovered another white-colored envelope.
At 6:35am, Salas informed Lansangan of the findings of his currency inspection of Ma.
Salas informed Lansangan that Ma declared a little over $6,000 and a little over 1,000 Chinese RMB to him both verbally and in writing, by completing a CBP form.
Salas stated that he asked Ma at least twice verbally after he completed and signed the CBP form if that was all the currency he had.
Ma told Salas that the approximately $6,000 was all he had to declare.
Salas said that Ma initially stated that he did not know what was in the envelopes, but later admitted that it was cash.
Salas added that Ma stated the money was not his, but belonged to a person named “Zheng Xiaolong” who allegedly owned “L&M Market.”
Salas said that based on his count, the amount of currency in the two envelopes totaled $20,000 and Ma had not declared any part of that amount.
CBP officers then detained Ma and seized all of the currency in his possession for further investigation and escorted him to the CBP secondary inspection area of the airport.
Lansangan said that prior to interviewing Ma at 8:15am, he reviewed the defendant’s Chinese passport and learned that he was born in Fujian Province, China.
Lansangan’s interview was in the presence of a Mandarin interpreter.
According to Lansangan, Ma stated that the $20,000 that was retrieved from his luggage was given to him by his boss, Shaorong Zeng, who operates LN Market. Ma said that Zeng gave him the money while inside LN Market on Feb. 12, 2015, at 7pm.
Ma stated that Zeng told him she had borrowed the money from a person in China named Maiying Xu and needed to pay back the loan.
Ma stated that Zeng told him the two envelopes contained a total of $20,000, and asked him to deliver the money to Xu at her house in Putian, China.
Ma also told Lansangan that when he was initially approached by CBP officers, he was scared to declare Zeng’s $20,000 and so he only declared his own cash and currency of about $6,294 and some Chinese RMB.
Ma also stated that because he was so scared of losing Zeng’s money or having it taken or stolen from him, he took the envelopes and hid them in his pants before packing them in his luggage.
Lansangan said Ma stated that no one told or instructed him not to report Zeng’s money, but that he made the decision not to report it on his own.