Man in marriage fraud case gets three years probation


Benigno Ilo Mettao, a 27-year-old man who pleaded guilty to lying to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer in connection with his sham marriage to a Chinese national, was slapped with a three-year probation sentence.

At a sentencing hearing on Thursday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona also directed Mettao to perform 50 hours of community service, not possess and use a controlled substance, participate in a substance abuse treatment program, and refrain from consuming any alcoholic beverages, among other conditions.

Mettao was ordered to immediately pay $100 in special assessment fee after sentencing.

Assistant U.S. attorney Russell Lorfing, counsel for the U.S. government, recommended a sentence of probation and no prison time—the low end of the sentencing guidelines range.

Attorney Michael Dotts, the court-appointed counsel for Mettao, recommended the same. The U.S. Probation Officer Margarita Wonenberg also recommended the same.

Mettao pleaded guilty to false statement. The offense carries a maximum penalty of a five-year prison term, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year supervised release.

In an interview with a USCIS officer on May 25, 2011, Mettao said he lived in San Antonio and that he lived with Bao Qin Ding, both of which were untrue.

Last July, Mettao was among the witnesses that the U.S. government called to the witness stand in the jury trial of Qiong Lu Pua, a woman charged with three others for conspiring in a fraudulent marriage solely in order for two of them to obtain green cards.

Pua’s co-defendants were Ding, Zhenging Lu, Ba, and Norma Nekaifes. Mettao was charged for the same conduct in a separate indictment.

Pua was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Nekaifes and Mettao pleaded guilty. Defendants Lu and Ding are believed to have already fled to China.

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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