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    Thursday, October 18, 2018-9:28:11P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Man in passport case wants to withdraw guilty plea

A MAN who pled guilty in February to the charge of making a false statement in a U.S. passport application now wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

According to Liang Li, “I did not get enough time to go through all the details. I signed the plea agreement reluctantly.”

Li, through his new lawyer Janet H. King, is asking the District Court for the NMI to grant his motion for leave to withdraw his guilty plea.

King also asked the court to proceed with the jury trial.

Liang Li was indicted on Feb. 2, 2018. At the pre-trial conference, Liang Li was represented by attorneys Rene Holmes and Mark Scoggins.

Li is a 34-year-old Saipan resident who first arrived on island from China in 2004 at the age of 19. In 2015, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He and his parents own and operate a successful car-rental business on Saipan.

Li was a notary public. After the indictment, he surrendered all his notarial duties to the Office of the Attorney General.

King said it was made known to the U.S. government and the defendant’s original counsel that Li admitted to notarizing  DS-3053 on Jan. 10, 2018 without the presence of Jian Liu, Yanan Li’s husband. But he adamantly denied notarizing the Statement of Consent (DS-3053) on Jan. 10, 2018 in order for Yanan Li’s infant child to be issued a U.S. passport.

King said a review of the discovery indicates that on Jan. 8, 2018 Li notarized DS-3053 signed by Yanan Li’s husband, Jian Liu, who actually appeared before him, and that Li again notarized  DS-3053 on Jan. 10, 2018 after being told by both Ye Fang (known as “Batu”) and How Yo Chi that he made a mistake on  DS-3053 that was notarized on January 8, 2018.

Batu, according to Chi, is a “possible birth-tourism coordinator.”

King said discovery shows that after Chi was told by U.S. Passport Office acceptance clerk Geraldine Cruz that the address was incorrect, Chi called Batu. Chi then filled out  DS-3053, not Yanan Li.  Chi and Yanan Li went from the U.S. Passport Office directly to Li’s car-rental place, and Chi brought the rejected DS-3053 to Li, and Yanan Li stayed in the car with the infant.

King said one DS-3053 had a Saipan address, and the other DS-3053 had a China address. Both bear the date “January 8, 2018.”

Li told U.S. government special agents Marc Weinstock and Joseph Kramer that he notarized one DS-3053 on Jan. 8, 2018, and one again on Jan. 10, 2018, for the purpose of correcting these mistakes only.

Li provided a photo of DS-3053 with the Saipan address which was correctly notarized on January 8, 2018, as Jian Liu was actually present and actually signed it in front of Li.

King said Li did not hesitate to admit that he made a mistake in notarizing a document on January 10, 2018 without Jian Li present, but that he did so because Batu and Chi told him that DS-3053 was incorrectly filled out and he needed to fix his mistake.

King said at the change-of-plea hearing on April 2, 2018 Li had difficulty in accepting the  allegations but did so anyway out of fear of guaranteed jail time if the defendant chose to go to trial.

According to King, Li reached out to the U.S. ombudsman’s office after pleading guilty and expressed his regret and doubts about doing so.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Benedetto provided the plea agreement to Li’s previous attorney on March 30, 2018, and the attorney at that time presented it to Li at the pre-trial hearing that day.

On April 2, 2018 Li and his attorneys reviewed the document together.

King said Li’s attorneys “told him that he would be facing certain jail time if he went to trial. The attorneys pressured him into signing the agreement and sent it to the prosecutor, and a change-of-plea hearing promptly took place on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at 2 p.m.”

Li regretted agreeing to the plea deal, King said.

On April 8, 2018, Li  again reached out to the Office of the U.S. Ombudsman by e-mail and stated, among other things: “I did not get enough time to go through all the details. I signed the plea agreement reluctantly.”

On May 8, 2018, Li retained King.

According to the prosecution, on Jan. 10, 2018, Li knowingly and willfully notarized a document “U.S. Department of State of Consent: Issuance of a U.S passport to a minor under age 16” on behalf of Jian Liu and Yanan Li  dated Jan 8, 2018

Li signed the document as a licensed notary, and “willfully made a false writing document, knowing it to contain a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement to the US government by certifying that she personally witnessed a person signing a DS-3053 Statement of Consent and backdating it to January 8, 2018 which document was submitted to the U.S. Passport Office in Saipan knowing that the person had departed the United Sates in the early morning hours of Jan. 10, 2018.”

The document was rejected by the U.S. Passport Office because it did not have a valid address, and the father of the minor child confirmed to a Diplomatic Security special agent that he did not sign the document, the prosecution said.