Man with 63-month prison term appeals sentence

A Chinese national, who was recently slapped with a 63-month prison term in federal court for his role behind the shipment of 4.9 lbs of methamphetamine or “ice” in 2015 to the CNMI, is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Zhaopeng Chen, through counsel David G. Banes, told the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday that he will ask the Ninth Circuit to reverse the final judgment in his criminal case.

Banes said the appeal includes all court orders and rulings prior to and during the jury trial, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s denial of the motion to acquit Chen, and the sentence imposed on Chen.

In an earlier interview, Banes expressed surprised at the jurors’ guilty verdict, since the two main witnesses testified that either Chen was not involved in the “ice” shipment or he wasn’t sure that Chen was involved.

Last Sept. 7, a federal jury reached a unanimous verdict finding Chen guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Last Dec. 19, Manglona sentenced Chen to a 63-month prison term—five years and three months, with credit for 379 days of time served.

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

Huang and Cai pleaded guilty.

Huang, who was tagged as the leader of the group, was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison.

Cai was slapped with 51 months in prison.

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

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

Authorities valued the seized “ice” at $850,00 at that time, making it the second largest haul of illegal drugs in CNMI history.

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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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