LAWYER OF DEFENDANT IN FAKE MARRIAGES ALLEGES:
A defense lawyer has asserted that the U.S. government is still making unsubstantiated claims in opposing the continued release of his client, Qiong Lu Pua, a woman who was slapped with a 12-month and one day imprisonment for orchestrating two sham marriages so that her brother and friend could obtain green cards.
Attorney Mark B. Hanson said the U.S. government continues to make unsubstantiated allegations regarding Pua’s “ties to a foreign country, extensive contacts in China, and significant sums of unexplained income.”
Noting that these are not new allegations, Hanson said the U.S. government moved for Pua’s detention on the basis of these claims following sentencing, but the court permitted the defendant to remain at liberty, albeit with the additional condition that she surrender her minor son’s passport.
Hanson discussed the U.S. government’s alleged unsubstantiated claims in Pua’s reply to the prosecution’s opposition to her motion for release from prison pending appeal.
Pua requested the U.S. District Court for the NMI to allow her release pending the results of her appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Pua is appealing the Ninth Circuit to reverse the U.S. District Court for the NMI’s denial of her motion for a judgment of acquittal.
In the U.S. government’s opposition, assistant U.S. attorney Russell H. Lorfing disclosed, among other things, that Pua has $70,000 in unexplained income deposited in her account in 2014 and 2015.
Lorfing said with her money, the defendant has the financial means to flee. He said the defendant’s ties to a foreign country, extensive contacts in China, and the significant sums of unexplained income suggest the real possibility that she is a flight risk.
In Pua’s reply yesterday, Hanson said Pua has been allowed to travel between Guam and Saipan, through international airports and in possession of her passport.
Hanson said Pua has never missed a court appearance or failed to comply with her conditions of release.
The lawyer said Pua has family ties to the Mariana Islands and there is no evidence that she has financial resources to flee even if she wanted to.
“The record is clear that Mrs. Pua is not a flight risk,” Hanson stressed.
Pua remained at liberty after the verdict while she awaited sentencing.
Hanson said for a person to be released pending sentencing, the law requires a court to find “by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community.”
Hanson said Pua again remained at liberty pending imposition or execution of her sentence.
“In other words, she was allowed to remain at liberty pending notification from the U.S. Marshal Service that Bureau of Prisons had designated a facility for her to serve her sentence,” he said.
Pua was sentenced last Jan. 29.
Hanson said Pua’s circumstances have not changed since the time of the verdict, nor have they changed since the time of her sentencing.
He said his client has been allowed to remain at liberty because the court has already determined that she is not a flight risk.