Store managers say they are innocent owners; money intended for son’s tuition, New Year celebration
A couple has claimed ownership of the $23,000 that was seized at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport from a hand-carried luggage of a store worker who was bound for Shanghai, China in February last year.
Xingnong Xu and his wife, Shaorong Zheng, said they are the innocent owners of the forfeited money at issue.
Xu and Zheng, through counsel Samuel I. Mok, said they did not know that Delin Ma, who actually transported the money, would fail to report the currency on a FinCen Form 105 as required by law.
Mok said the couple collectively earned the money from their joint savings from their longtime employment as managers at LN Market and Blue Sky Market.
Mok said the $20,000 was intended for the couple’s son’s living expenses and tuition payment for a private school and Xu’s mother for Chinese New Year celebration.
Mok said $3,000 was for a personal loan to Ma.
Mok asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to return to the couple the seized $23,000.
A federal grand jury indicted Ma with one count of bulk cash smuggling out of the United States.
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.
Ma pleaded guilty.
Attorney Mark Hanson, counsel for Ma, said the defendant was stopped at the Saipan airport on his way back to China for his son’s wedding.
Hanson said Ma, who was a farmer in China and worked in the CNMI since 1997, has no criminal record.
Hanson said Ma was scared at the time, and that it was the first time he had carried money through the airport in this fashion.
In December 2015, the court imposed a 36-month probation sentence on the 52-year-old Ma. The court forfeited the $23,000 seized from Ma.
The court also ordered the return to Ma of the $3,294 that he was carrying on his person at the time of his arrest.
In Xu’s and Zheng’s petition for return of the seized property filed on Monday, Mok said at the time of the seizure, Ma was a full-time employee of LN Market.
Ma was responsible for the warehouse and maintaining the store’s inventory.
Mok said at the time of the seizure, Zheng also worked at LN Market along with her husbad, Xu.
Both Xu and Zheng jointly manage LN Market and Blue Sky Supermarket.
Mok said Ma is Zheng’s distant relative.
The lawyer said the couple gave Ma $3,000 as a personal loan because the latter was attending his son’s wedding in China.
On Feb. 12, 2015, Xu received a phone call from his mother in China stating that she needed money to pay for their son’s living expenses and school tuition payment.
Mok said Xu’s mother also needed money for the upcoming Chinese New Year as she was expected to give lucky red envelopes to their family’s relatives in China.
Mok said according to Zheng since Ma was already scheduled to go to China for his son’s wedding that perhaps the couple should give Ma $20,000 to take to Zheng’s mother-in-law.
Mok said Zheng did not know that Ma would not properly report the money by failing to complete the FinCen Form 105.
“Mr. Ma’s failure to do so was solely his own,” the lawyer said.