US govt calls 5 witnesses in marriage fraud case


The U.S. government called five witnesses yesterday in the ongoing jury trial of Qiong Lu Pua, a woman charged with three others of conspiring in a fraudulent marriage in order for two of them to obtain green cards.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Russell Lorfing and Ross Naughton are expected to call at least five more witnesses when trial resumes today at 8am.

The prosecution began calling witnesses yesterday. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer Diane S. Zedde was called twice to the witness stand.

The other witnesses were U.S. Customs and Border Protection Saipan assistant port director Mark Layman, Norma Nekaifes, Bank of Hawaii branch manager Rose Sumor, and a Bank of Saipan custodian.

Pua is on trial for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Attorney Mark Hanson is her court-appointed counsel. Attorney Benjamin Petersburg is Hanson’s co-counsel.

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

Nekaifes and Mettao have already pleaded guilty. Lu and Ding are believed to be currently residing in China.

The indictment alleges that from June 2010 through July 2011, Pua, Nekaifes, Benigno Mettao, and others agreed to deceive USCIS by arranging into fraudulent marriages for the purpose of defrauding USCIS.

According to the prosecution, in 2005, Pua, a Chinese national, obtained legal permanent resident status after marrying Juan Pua, a U.S. citizen, but the two never lived together.

In 2010, Pua was allegedly looking for U.S. citizens for her family and friends to marry.

The U.S. citizens Pua found and solicited were her neighbors, Nekaifes and Mettao.

Nekaifes is the long-time girlfriend of Mettao.

Pua allegedly agreed to pay Mettao and Nekaifes several hundred dollars in exchange for Mettao and Nekaifes entering into fraudulent marriages.

Mettao married Ding in December 2010. Pua allegedly paid the prearranged fee.

Mettao subsequently signed immigration status forms in January 2010, and lied to USCIS in May 2011—all allegedly at the behest of Pua.

In January 2011, Pua approached Nekaifes and allegedly asked if she would marry Pua’s brother, Lu, for about $1,100.

On May 16, 2011, Nekaifes married Lu, whom she had allegedly met only the week prior.

In July 2011, Nekaifes submitted immigration forms to USCIS on behalf of Lu.

In Pua’s case, the prosecution called it a marriage fraud case, but that it isn’t a marriage fraud trial.

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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