This story reads like a murder meets corruption novel, but it is based on non-fiction federal filings in court. If it were a novel, these would be the excerpts on the inside of the cover:
"Supervisor Kong told the workers it is not unusual for a Chinese person to be killed in Saipan and that nobody would notice if a few Chinese people 'disappeared.'"
"Over the next year, in response to heightened scrutiny by CBP inspectors, defendants and the unindicted co-conspirators promulgated increasingly elaborate schemes of deception, including but not limited to, providing costumes and backstories to hired workers, as well as pairing them with existing female employees in China."
"The female employees posed as the illegal foreign workers's wives or girlfriends in exchange for paid vacations to the CNMI."
"In this case, please kindly confirm your selection so that I can notify the workers to come to Shanghai on 2/27 (Monday), provide training and start booking their tickets. They will fly to Saipan on 2/28."
"To all, please pay high attention. If the workers do not have status, please don't let them go to a doctor at the local hospital. The project department will think about a solution."
By Troy Torres
The United States government says a senior executive from Imperial Pacific International in Hong Kong (IPI HK) and from a company owned by the government of China were co-conspirators in an unprecedented RICO case involving international money laundering, the harboring of illegal aliens, and business with the Commonwealth government.
Recently-unsealed federal court documents show the yet-to-be-named pair were unindicted as of the superseding indictment that lists their involvement. For the past two years (the original indictment was filed March 27, 2018, with the superseding indictment filed August 1, 2019), the U.S. government asked the U.S. District Court of the NMI to keep the case under seal because related federal investigations were ongoing and certain co-conspirators had not been arrested.
On Thursday last week, the U.S. Attorney filed five criminal cases in federal court in Saipan. Criminal cases numbers CR-20-00004 through CR-20-00008, all filed on July 30, 2020, were preceded by five miscellaneous cases (likely warrants), all of them sealed by the Court.
Two of the warrants were filed on June 10, one was filed June 16, one was filed June 30, and the final warrant was filed the day before the criminal cases were filed - July 29.
It is unclear if any of the indicted defendants in any of the five recently-filed criminal cases have been arrested and arraigned before the Court, though its parking lot was filled this morning.
The 2018 case that was unsealed this morning charges IPI HK's subsidiary IPI CNMI senior executive Peter Wu, former IPI HK president Jianmin Xu, and an official with MCC CNMI with 71 counts of federal crimes, including:
1 count of RICO Conspiracy
1 count of Conspiracy to Harbor Illegal Aliens
32 counts of Harboring Illegal Aliens
5 counts of International Promotional Money Laundering
MCC CNMI is a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC China), which is owned by the government of China. IPI HK contracted with MCC China, which then formed MCC CNMI to construct the behemoth casino facility in Garapan, when in August 2014 the CNMI government granted IPI CNMI exclusive rights to do so.
According to the U.S. Attorney, the named defendants, the unindicted co-conspirators, and others formed a criminal enterprise that:
Hired, employed, harbored, and induced foreign workers to enter the country illegally "for the purpose of completing construction of the casino project."
Evaded and violated wage and labor laws by directing illegal foreign workers to obtain and turn over information for bank accounts in China. In this way, wage payments could be made entirely within China and thereby evade United States regulators.
Concealed the location of illegal foreign workers for the purpose of defrauding the United States as to their true immigration status.
Encouraged and trained illegal foreign workers to deceive U.S. agencies.
Financed the illegal foreign workers's travel from China to the CNMI, transportation within the CNMI, accommodations, food, and other expenses.
According to the superseding indictment:
Beginning as early as September 2015, Wu, Xu, and Unindicted Co-conspirator No. 1 pressured MCC CNMI to accelerate work, threatening to impose fines if the contractors failed to meet deadlines. As part of this pressure, they implicitly and explicitly ordered MCC CNMI to hire unauthorized alien workers, referred to informally as "heigong," Mandarin for "black worker."
In addition to hiring workers who were already present in the CNMI, living either illegally or present with non-working visas, the IPI defendants encouraged, authorized, and instructed MCC CNMI to import workers from China using the conditional parole (CP) program.
To do this, IPI and MCC defendants, and other foreign contractors instigated a plan to deceive U.S. Customs and Border Patrol by instructing prospective hires in China to lie to immigration inspectors, claiming they wished to enter the CNMI as tourists under the CP program.
Over the next year, in response to heightened scrutiny by CBP inspectors, defendants and the unindicted co-conspirators promulgated increasingly elaborate schemes of deception, including but not limited to, providing costumes and backstories to hired workers, as well as pairing them with existing female employees in China.
The female employees posed as the illegal foreign workers's wives or girlfriends in exchange for paid vacations to the CNMI. In addition to reimbursing MCC CNMI and other contractors for the illegal workers's salaries, the IPI defendants also purchased plane tickets and paid other expenses for the illegal workers and their fake spouses or girlfriends.
Once in the CNMI, the aliens worked without authorization, receiving their wages either in cash or via electronic transfer between bank accounts in China. Most remained in the CNMI long after their CP status expired.
MCC CNMI and other contractors invoiced IPI to pay their workers, both legal and illegal. These invoices distinguished legal and illegal workers, with illegal workers receiving wages lower than legal workers, and almost always below the minimum wage.
Upon receiving an invoice, IPI CNMI or IPI HK reimbursed MCC CNMI by check or wire transfer to and from accounts in China and the CNMI.
IPI HK and IPI CNMI also wired money to MEP to transport, feed, and house legal and illegal foreign workers together at a compound in Tanapag village, as well as in hotels and other rented properties around the island of Saipan.
The scheme lasted through at least March 2017 and resulted in an influx of more than 600 illegal workers onto the worksite, many of whom were inexperienced and not qualified to perform their assigned tasks.
Throughout the course of the scheme, the defendants and the unindicted co-conspirators took active measures to conceal the illegal workers from local and federal authorities, including immigration, labor, and safety inspectors. This, coupled with the fact that many of the workers had little to no experience in construction, created a worksite environment with a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
The U.S. government has evidence of communications between the defendants and unindicted co-conspirators in the commission of crimes.
On September 17, 2015, Xu approved a written request from MCC CNMI to use construction workers with tourist visas on the casino construction project, and to have IPI reimburse MCC CNMI for related expenses.
The defendants and their unindicted co-conspirators in February 2017 schemed to deceive CBP by recruiting men from China and pairing them with female companions en route to Saipan.
On February 23, 2017, the alleged criminals and others in the criminal enterprise created a WeChat page titled "MEP Visa Arrangement Trip" to plan and facilitate the entry of 35 illegal workers from China.