Last of 3 suspects gets 63-month prison term



One of three men behind the shipment of 4.9 lbs of methamphetamine or “ice” in 2015 to the CNMI was slapped on Monday with a 63-month prison term—five years and three months.

Zhaopeng Chen was given credit for 379 days of time served. Upon completing his prison term, Chen shall be placed on supervised release of three years.

Chen, a Chinese national, will be deported from the CNMI upon his release from prison.

During his supervised release, Chen will be required to perform 50 hours of community service.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona also ordered Chen to pay $100 in special assessment fee.

Manglona determined that the sentencing guideline range was 63 months to 78 months imprisonment.

Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe, counsel for the U.S. government, and U.S. Probation Officer Margarita Wonenberg, both recommended a sentence of 63 months in prison, the low end of the sentencing guideline range.

Banes recommended a sentence of 51 months imprisonment.

Last Sept. 7, a federal jury rendered a unanimous guilty verdict against Chen. The jurors found him guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. That carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

The indictment charged Chen, Shicheng Cai, and Xi Huang, all Chinese nationals, with conspiracy with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Cai and Huang pleaded guilty.

Last month, Cai was slapped with 51 months in prison.

Last August, the court slapped Huang, who was tagged as the leader of the group, with 15 years and eight months of imprisonment.

According to the indictment, Huang, Cai, and Chen conspired between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4, 2015, to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Customs inspectors discovered the contraband hidden in one of nine paint buckets during a routine inspection at the seaport of a shipping container from China on Dec. 2, 2015.

Local and federal enforcers replaced the “ice” with sugar and conducted a surveillance operation that led to the arrest of Huang, Cai, and Chen on Dec. 4, 2015 near Stanford Hotel in San Vicente.

The worth of the “ice” was estimated at $850,000 at that time, making it the second largest illegal drugs haul in the CNMI history.

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

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