Court unseals indictment against 2 IPI executives, contractor supervisor, 9 unnamed co-conspirators

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THE federal court has unsealed a 17-page superseding indictment dated Aug. 1, 2019 against two Imperial Pacific International LLC executives and a supervisor of one of its former contractors, MCC International Saipan Ltd Co.

They were charged with racketeering, harboring of illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, and international promotional money laundering.

Besides IPI executives Liwen “Peter’ Wu and Jianmin Wu, and MCC project supervisor Yan Shi, nine other individuals were named co-defendants or co-conspirators.

All are citizens of the People’s Republic of China.

In August 2014, the CNMI government granted IPI exclusive rights to build a large hotel and casino in Garapan, the primary business and tourism district on Saipan.

According to the indictment, the license agreement imposed deadlines for completing various phases of the project; failure to meet those deadlines would result in monetary penalties payable to the CNMI.
Construction began on the worksite in July 2015. IPI contracted with several Chinese construction companies for the project, including MCC China, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a state owned business in China.

The indictment stated that Marianas Enterprises Limited or MEP, which was wholly owned by IPI, also performed services for IPI and its contractors, including recruitment, importation, housing, and transportation of foreign workers.

In August 2015, Worldwide Asia Engineering Limited or WWA, a company incorporated and doing business in Hong Kong, contracted with IPI to recruit and supply workers for the casino construction project.  “Availing [itself] of the CW-1 program, as well as the jurisdiction's comparably low wage rates, IPI, MCC CNMI, and the other contractors chose to import nearly all of their employees from China instead of hiring U.S. citizens or otherwise eligible foreign nationals,” the indictment stated.

“However, Department of Homeland Security and Citizenship and Immigration Services limited the number of CW-1 visas for the project's companies to several hundred.”

Beginning in September 2015, the indictment stated that Wu and Xu and another person pressured MCC CNMI to accelerate work, threatening to impose fines if the contractors failed to meet deadlines.

As part of this pressure, Wu and Xu and another person implicitly and explicitly ordered MCC CNMI to hire unauthorized alien workers, referred to informally as "heigong," which is Mandarin for "black worker," the indictments stated.

In addition to hiring workers who were already present in the CNMI, living either illegally or present with non-working visas, IPI defendants encouraged, authorized, and instructed MCC CNMI to import workers from China using the Conditional Parole Program, the indictment added.

To do this, IPI and MCC defendants, and other foreign contractors instigated a plan to deceive U.S. Customs and Border Protection by instructing prospective hires in China to lie to immigration inspectors, claiming they wished to enter the CNMI as tourists under the Conditional Parole Program, the indictment stated.

It added that over the next year, in response to heightened scrutiny by CBP inspectors, the defendants and other 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.”

According to the indictment, “The female employees posed as the illegal foreign workers' spouses or girlfriends in exchange for paid vacations to the CNMI. In addition to reimbursing MCC CNMI and other contractors for the illegal workers' salaries, IPI defendants also purchased plane tickets and paid other expenses for the illegal workers and their fake spouses or girlfriends.”

The indictment stated that 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 conditional parole status expired, the indictment added.

“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,” the indictment stated.

“Upon receiving an invoice, IPI or IPI Hong Kong reimbursed MCC CNMI by check or wire transfer to and from accounts in China and the CNMI. IPI HK and IPI 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 indictment added that this 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/or not qualified to perform their assigned tasks.

Throughout the course of the scheme, the indictment stated, the defendants and other 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 indictment added.

It stated that the defendants and other “transferred funds…with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity, specifically, acts committed for the purpose of financial gain (relating to the bringing in and harboring certain aliens) and indictable under Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324.”

According to the indictment, a total of $24,285,945.98 was transferred from an IPI HK bank account in Hong Kong to an MCC or IPI account on Saipan during the dates of Oct. 17, Nov. 3, Nov. 4, 2016, Feb. 3, and March 3, 2017.

The indictment was originally filed on March 27, 2018 by Shawn N. Anderson, the U.S. attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and David L. Jaffe, chief of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. It was followed by five motions to have the matter under seal because of ongoing investigation which District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted.

On Tuesday, she unsealed the case.

Tao Xing, IPI's senior vice president for public affairs, issued the following statement on Tuesday:

"On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC learned about the indictment on activities conducted from 2015 to March 2017. IPI has assisted the federal agencies with the investigation and will continue to assist in any ongoing investigation.

"IPI respects the rule of law and will continue to focus on the completion of the project and contribute to CNMI economic growth."

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