Probation sentence proposed for man in fraud case

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The defense counsel in the case involving a man who pleaded guilty to license fraud has proposed a probation sentence for his client.

According to Steven Pixley, defense lawyer for Margarito Cortez Villafuerte, a probation sentence is appropriate because, pursuant to the plea agreement that his client signed, the U.S. government had agreed to recommend that the court impose a sentence no longer than seven days in prison.

“Villafuerte has accepted full responsibility for his actions and there exist no aggravating circumstances weighing in favor of incarceration. Villafuerte wants to return to his family in the Philippines as soon as this case is resolved,” Pixley stated.

In addition, based on the findings of the U.S. Probation Office, a total offense level of 4 and a criminal history category of 1— which applies in Villafuerte’s case—sets the guideline imprisonment range from zero to six months.

Pixley also argues that the sentencing court should avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct, siting the case of Mingjin Jin as an example.

“This court in recent years has sentenced similarly-situated defendants to probation. For example, on May 28, 2021, this court sentenced Mingjin Jin to serve a term of one-year probation. A sentence of probation would comport with this sentencing requirement,” he said.

According to court documents, Villafuerte, 64 and a Filipino citizen who had no immigration status, paid someone $150 so he could obtain a CNMI driver’s license. Four years later, on June 23, 2021, Villafuerte was charged with conspiracy to unlawfully produce an identification document. He entered into a plea agreement on Aug. 31, 2021 where declared that he fully accepted responsibility for his actions.

“I know it was illegal and that I was breaking the law…but I needed a driver’s license so I could drive my sister who had cancer. I understand that the way I obtained my driver’s license in 2017 and 2014 was a serious violation of U.S. laws. I am sorry for breaking the law and I’m willing to take responsibility for that,” he stated.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista 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.
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