The federal court has imposed a sentence of probation and home detention on a notary public after he pleaded guilty to lying in another person’s U.S. passport application.
At a sentencing hearing last Friday, Liang Li was sentenced to two years of probation, with six months to be served in home detention.
During the home detention phase of his sentence, Li will be placed on location monitoring program, said U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona.
Li was also ordered to pay a $4,000 fine plus $100 in special assessment fee.
Manglona said the consent form for a U.S. passport application clearly states, as well as Li’s admission, that he wrote Jan. 8, 2018, instead of Jan. 10, 2018.
Manglona said Li knew that the father of the child was not physically there when he notarized the consent form.
“So there is overwhelming evidence that you committed the crime,” the judge told Li.
The judge said Li was trying to correct his mistake as he knew that the father of the child was not there.
“Yet you stamped the document. That’s the crime,” Manglona pointed out.
Manglona said she understands Li’s mother’s sentiment.
The judge said she finds Li to be a hardworking man, a self-made man but “whatever the reasons, you made a bad mistake.”
Li owns U Save Car Rental.
Before the sentence was handed down, Li begged the court for leniency.
Li, 34, said he first came to Saipan from China in 2004 when he was only 19 years old.
He said he worked for 14 hours a day for three and a half years, then he eventually opened an internet shop in Kagman and then a car rental business in Garapan.
In 2015, Li became a U.S. citizen.
Li admitted that what he did was wrong and that it was a violation of law. He apologized to the court, the U.S. government, and the community.
Assistant U.S. attorney James Benedetto, counsel for the U.S. government, said he would rely on his sentencing memorandum.
The sentencing memorandum recommends a sentence of six months imprisonment and a $4,000 fine.
Benedetto said that people have to be accountable for their conducts.
He pointed out that Li made another mistake when he tried to withdraw his guilty plea and made allegations against his then-attorneys Mark Scoggins and Rene Holmes.
Benedetto said if the court would impose no prison term, the government, however, would not oppose it.
Li’s mother cried in court as she, through an interpreter, begged for a lenient sentence for her son, whom she described as hardworking and likeable.
The mother said she and her over 60-year-old husband are sickly and that their son is the only one who supports them.
Janet H. King, counsel for Liang Li, said Li did everything he could to pursue justice, and although he disagrees with the court’s ruling to deny the withdrawal of his guilty plea, he respects the court’s sentence.
“Now Mr. Li wishes to move on with his life, and to focus on his family,” King said.
The defense counsel said Li notarized a DS-3053, a consent form for a U.S. passport application, on Jan. 10, 2018 and backdated it to Jan. 8, 2018 when Mr. Jian Liu, the father giving consent to his child receiving a U.S. passport, was not present.
King said Li has been a notary for 10 years, and he has no criminal history before this case.
King said Li is not a part of the so-called birth tourism industry and he believed strongly that his action was intended to correct a mistake on the form he first notarized on Jan. 8, 2018, when Jian Liu was present.
“However, his actions in notarizing the form again on Jan. 10, 2018, and backdating it to Jan. 8, 2018, went against his oath as a notary and it was a violation of law,” King said.
Last April 3, Li pleaded guilty to lying in a passport application but then filed a motion on Aug. 8, asking the court to allow him to withdraw his plea.
He alleged that his former lawyers pressured him to take the plea by giving him less than a day to consider it, telling him he had no chance of winning if he went to trial, and threatening him with prison time if he did not accept the officer—allegations that Benedetto described as false. Manglona denied Li’s motion.