‘Not guilty’ plea for man tagged in ‘ice’ smuggling


A man who is accused of smuggling nearly five pounds of methamphetamine or “ice” has pleaded not guilty before the Superior Court.

During an arraignment hearing before Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja on Monday, Yuzhu Zhang, 48, pleaded not guilty to importation of contraband, trafficking, and possession of a controlled substance.

Naraja accepted Zhang’s plea and reassigned the case to Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho before remanding the defendant back to Department of Corrections custody.

He also ordered the parties to return to court for a case management conference on May 18, at 10am where the parties should be prepared to advise the court whether the matter will be disposed of by a change of plea, trial, or other disposition.

During the hearing, the CNMI was represented by assistant attorney general Heather Barcinas while Zhang, who appeared in the custody of the Department of Corrections, was represented by assistant public defender Vina Seelam.

According to court documents, Zhang is accused of attempting to smuggle 4.9 pounds of methamphetamine from California through the U.S. Postal Service.

The seized contraband has a street value of approximately $700,000.

The “ice” was uncovered at approximately 10am on March 19 during a Customs routine inspection of a large parcel addressed to Zhang. Inside the parcel, Customs officer Franklin Sablan said he saw three wooden cases containing chinaware. Upon further inspection of the wooden cases, Sablan said he noticed a squared object wrapped in duct tape under the chinaware inside the wooden case. While examining the square object wrapped in duct tape, the officer noticed white crystalline substance spilling into the wooden case.

After procuring the parcel and its contents as evidence, the items were transported to the Customs Office at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport for processing and testing where it came out positive for methamphetamine.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.