Jury finds Tydingco couple guilty

Lili Zhang Tydingco walks toward the U.S. District Court for the NMI in Garapan after she was informed that the jury reached a verdict yesterday afternoon. The jury found her and her husband, Francisco Muna Tydingco, guilty of harboring an illegal alien. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Lili Zhang Tydingco walks toward the U.S. District Court for the NMI in Garapan after she was informed that the jury reached a verdict yesterday afternoon. The jury found her and her husband, Francisco Muna Tydingco, guilty of harboring an illegal alien. (Ferdie de la Torre)

A federal court jury rendered yesterday a unanimous verdict finding couple Francisco Muna Tydingco and Lili Zhang Tydingco guilty of harboring an illegal Chinese alien.

After deliberating for less than five hours yesterday, the 12 jurors found the Tydingco couple guilty of one count of harboring an alien.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, Saipan Tribune learned.

The jurors found that Lili Tydingco harbored an alien for the purpose of private financial gain. The jurors also found Francisco Tydingco guilty of aiding or abetting Lili Tydingco in harboring an illegal alien.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona set the sentencing for Nov. 4, 2016.

Manglona allowed Lili Tydingco to remain at liberty until the sentencing date.

The judge allowed the release of Francisco Tydingco subject to home detention pending the sentencing.

Assistant U.S. attorney Russell H. Lorfing, counsel for the U.S. government, said they will not oppose placing Lili Tydingco to remain at liberty pending the sentencing.

Lorfing, however, recommended that Francisco Tydingco should be detained pending sentencing due to his violations of court’s pre-trial release order and that he is now a convicted felon.

Lorfing expressed concern with Francisco Tydingco’s use of methamphetamine or “ice” and being the caretaker of his three young children at home.

The court revoked Francisco Tydingco’s pre-trial release during the start of the trial last Tuesday for violation of court’s order.

Francisco Tydingco apologized to the court and asked to be released pending sentencing because he misses his children. He also promised not to violate again the court’s order and that he will stop using “ice.” He admitted he is only a casual “ice” user and not addicted to it.

Referring to violations of court’s pre-trial release, Manglona told Francisco Tydingco that he lied to her right in the courtroom.

“If I don’t trust you, who will trust you outside of this court?” Manglona said.

Francisco Tydingco apologized and promised he will not violate her order again.

The judge stated that she has sympathy for the Tydingcos’ children.

Manglona said he will authorize Francisco Tydingco’s release subject to home detention. The judge ordered the increase of drug testing plus other conditions.

Manglona warned Francisco Tydingco that it will be her last straw if he will violate her order.

The trial began last Tuesday. The jurors started deliberating on Friday and resumed their deliberations yesterday at 8am. A court staff read the verdict at 1:50pm.

Assistant U.S. attorney Lorfing refused to comment about the verdict.

Attorney Steven Pixley, counsel for Francisco Tydingco, said he was surprised with the verdict.

Asked if they are going to appeal, Pixley said they will wait until the sentencing date to consider options.

Attorney Bruce Berline, counsel for Lili Tydingco, said they are not happy with the verdict and surprised.

“But we understand that the jury had a job to do and they did their job and we’ll carry on. But the fight is not over. We will continue pursuing the case,” Berline said.

A federal grand jury has indicted the couple for allegedly receiving money to harbor two illegal Chinese aliens, including a child they enrolled at a public school.

The indictment charged the Tydingcos with two counts of harboring an illegal alien. The prosecution, however, dismissed one count pertaining to the child’s uncle after the government completed calling its witnesses during the trial.

According to Homeland Security Investigations Task Force officer Jesse Dubrall, the child’s purported uncle, Rongxue Liu, stated in an interview that he paid Lili Tydingco $7,000 in exchange for helping him enter into a fake marriage and obtain a green card.

Dubrall said the parents of the child admitted that they agreed to pay Lili Tydingco between $15,000 and $20,000 to take their child to Saipan and get her a green card.

Dubrall said the Tydingcos went to China in September 2013 and returned to Saipan with the then-10-year-old Chinese girl on Sept. 26, 2013.

Liu arrived on Saipan from China on July 25, 2015, according to the prosecution.

Lorfing stated in court documents Lili Tydingco reassured the worried father of the child that his minor daughter would be in good hands because Francisco Tydingco was a former police officer who was well connected and could facilitate the green card process.

In truth, Lorfing said, Francisco Tydingco had been convicted on Saipan of attempted murder and other violent crimes and had never served as a police officer.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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