A mother was slapped Monday in federal court with a one-year probation sentence for providing false statement in an application for a U.S. passport for her minor daughter.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramon V. Manglona also ordered Yu Zou to pay a $5,000 fine and $100 in court assessment fee.
Manglona required Zou to publish a letter of apology in a Chinese and English publication in order to educate others about her case.
Interpreter Betty Bai told the court that she would be able to assist Zou with publishing her apology letter through one of the Chinese newspapers on Saipan.
Manglona said the court would be satisfied with the defendant surrendering her letter to Bai before departing the CNMI.
At a change of plea hearing last June 17, Zou waived the required investigation by the U.S. Probation for a presentence investigation report due to her eagerness to return back to her very young children in China.
At Monday’s sentencing, Manglona ordered the defendant’s passport and her child’s passport to be returned to her.
Assistant U.S. attorney Russell Lorfing disclosed that the U.S. government had just served a subpoena on Zou in order to secure her testimony for the upcoming trial of her co-defendant in this case.
Defense counsel Benjamin Petersburg stated he had some discussions with his client, Zou, regarding this issue.
Lorfing concurred with defendant’s recommendation to a sentence of probation and requested that a fine be imposed.
Petersburg recommended a sentence of probation and agreed that fine should be imposed.
The indictment charged Zou and Yan Juan Hu Taitano with one count of making a false statement in a passport application.
According to the indictment, on Dec. 3, 2014 on Saipan, Zou and Taitano knowingly made a false statement in the application for a U.S. passport for the minor child.
In the application, Zou, allegedly aided by Taitano, stated that she had never been married, “which statements she then and there well knew to be false.”
Attorney Bruce Berline, co-counsel of Zou, stated in the defendant’s sentencing memorandum that given Zou’s personal history, her acceptance of responsibility, her lack of criminal history, a sentence of one-year probation with appropriate terms and conditions would be sufficient, but not greater than necessary to effectuate the purposes of sentencing.
Berline said Zou’s actions involve making a false statement for the sake of expedience, not realizing the import of her actions.
Berline said Zou did not steal or use another person’s identity or personal information, and she did not submit an application in the name of some other person, and she did not submit an application for a passport to which her minor daughter was not entitled.
Rather, the lawyer said, Zou made a false statement believing it would expedite the processing of her daughter’s passport.
“No one disputes that Mrs. Zou’s daughter is a U.S. citizen and qualifies for a U.S. passport,” he said.
Berline said while Zou omitted her husband’s information in the passport, she did not do so because she was applying for the passport without his knowledge.
“Rather, she did so because of her mistaken belief that, because her husband could not travel to Saipan, it would easier and faster to leave his name off of the application,” he said.
Berline said Zou’s husband submitted sufficient information to the State department from China and their minor daughter’s passport has actually been processed.
Berline said nevertheless, Zou has admitted her actions and taken full responsibility, acknowledging that it was wrong to provide false information on her daughter’s passport application.
Zou is a university graduate who was employed prior to leaving work to take care of her family, the lawyer said.