U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona yesterday granted the U.S. government’s motion to detain pending trial the three suspects in the shipment of $850,000 worth of methamphetamine or “ice.”
Citing the seriousness of the offense and defendants being flight risks, Manglona ordered Xi Huang, Shicheng Cai, and Zhaopeng Chen remain detained pending further proceedings.
Manglona remanded the defendants to the custody of the U.S. Marshal.
Should an indictment be filed in this case, the judge said the preliminary hearing set for Dec. 21, 2015, would be converted to arraignment for all defendants.
In granting the motion, Manglona said there is a significant amount of “ice” or close to 5 lbs involved in this case.
Manglona said it also appears to be a sophisticated scheme and that there was use of fake document or the driver’s license. She also noted the timing of the offense, among other factors.
In moving for the defendants’ continued detention, assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe said the U.S. government would be relying on the affidavit of the criminal complaint, arrest warrants, and the pretrial services reports from the U.S. Probation Office.
Backe said the defendants pose flight risks because their intent was to leave the CNMI shortly thereafter.
Backe said also involved in the case was the use of fake document or the Saipan driver’s license.
Backe said if released from custody, there is no condition to guarantee that the defendants will attend future hearings as they have the ability to leave the airport.
The prosecutor said the defendants should be detained pending trial.
Attorney Robert T. Torres, court-appointed counsel for Huang, said his client does have family ties because his parents are staying on Tinian.
Torres said Huang went to school on Tinian and lived there. He said Huang went to China in 2010.
Torres said his client reserves the right to rebut presumption at a later time.
Attorney David Banes, court-appointed counsel for Chen, joined in Torres’ request to reserve the right to rebut presumption.
Attorney Mark Hanson, court-appointed counsel for Cai, did not argue.
A routine Customs inspection at the Port of Saipan of a 40-foot container from Guangzhou, China, reportedly resulted in the discovery of the 4.9 lbs of “ice” hidden in three plastic bags in one of nine 5-gallon paint containers last Dec. 2.
Joint federal and local enforcers investigated the discovery of the “ice” that led to the arrest on Monday of Huang, Cai, and Chen, all Chinese nationals.
The U.S. government filed a complaint charging the defendants with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute “ice.”