Skip to comments.'Sister Ping' Convicted in Smuggling Scheme
Posted on 03/16/2006 8:06:04 PM PST by Calpernia
NEW YORK -- A Chinatown businesswoman who prosecutors described as one of the biggest "snakeheads'' of all time was sentenced to 35 years in prison Thursday for her role in organizing human smuggling schemes, including the doomed Golden Venture voyage in 1993.
Cheng Chui Ping, 57, pleaded for more than an hour for a lenient sentence, saying she was but a simple, hardworking immigrant who loved America and had been terrorized by Chinatown gangs.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey listened patiently, then dismissed the speech as ``simply incredible'' and gave Cheng the maximum penalty allowed by law.
Evidence at the trial, he said, had shown conclusively that she was a leader in a ring that took millions of dollars from hopeful immigrants, transported them in inhumane and dangerous conditions, and used violent gangsters to collect debts and ransom.
Cheng, more widely known by her nickname, "Sister Ping,'' did not react visibly to the sentence, but smiled and waved at relatives in the courtroom as she was led away.
Among the decrepit cargo ships that carried Cheng's human cargo was the Golden Venture, a failing hulk that ran aground near Queens. Ten immigrants died trying to swim to shore.
Prosecutors said Cheng financed that voyage, as well as a deadly 1998 trip in which a ship capsized off the coast of Guatemala, killing 14 people.
"Sister Ping was responsible for those deaths,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Brown.
Cheng's attorney, Lawrence Hochheiser, maintained at the sentencing hearing that her conviction was a mistake, and that her role in the Golden Venture was limited to lending money to the people who did the actual smuggling.
Hochheiser also assailed the relatively light sentences given to the government's star witnesses: admitted gangsters and multiple murderers who fingered Cheng in return for leniency.
One of those witnesses acknowledged killing eight people. Another admitted murdering seven. Each will likely serve fewer than 12 years in prison, Hochheiser said.
"It would just seem unseemly ... that she would receive more time than the murderers who testified against her, "Hochheiser said. ``I think she's a better person than they are. I think her crimes have less enormity than theirs did.''
Asked whether she had anything to say before the sentence was rendered, Cheng rose and gave a rambling account of her life, from her decision to come to the U.S. in 1981 to her departure from the country in 1994.
During that time, she claimed, she operated a clothing store and a restaurant, and had no interest in dealing with "snakeheads,'' the Chinatown term for human smugglers.
"Everybody can tell you that Sister Ping was working in the store every day,'' she insisted, speaking through a translator.
Cheng, who was arrested in Hong Kong in 2000 following six years as a fugitive, is appealing her conviction. One charge is still pending against her -- an allegation that her smuggling operation took hostages for ransom. A jury couldn't decide last year whether she was guilty of the charge. A date for a retrial has yet to be set.
Accused Alien Smuggling Kingpin and Financier Faces U.S. Prosecution
"Sister Ping" Brought to Justice After Eluding U.S. Officials For Ten Years
Washington, DC - The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced today that Chui Ping Cheng aka "Sister Ping," has been extradited from Hong Kong to the United States. Cheng, an accused human smuggler and financier, has unsuccessfully waged a three-year extradition battle to elude American prosecution.
Cheng has been a fugitive since her 1994 New York indictment, as well as a superseding indictment in 2000 from New York, for alien smuggling, kidnapping, hostage taking and money laundering. In April 2000, she was arrested in Hong Kong after an intensive five-year worldwide investigation by ICE and the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hong Kong Police, in coordination with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service Hong Kong office, arrested Cheng at the Chek Lap Kok Airport on April 9, 2000. Her three years of extradition appeals in the Hong Kong judicial system were exhausted on June 9, 2003.
Cheng is charged with smuggling thousands of Chinese migrants to the United States between 1984 and 2000, charging fees up to $30,000 per person.
"It may have taken ten years to get Cheng into a U.S. court for smuggling thousands of Chinese migrants but that only demonstrates ICE's resolve to identify, investigate, locate and bring to prosecution those who traffick in human beings," said Michael J. Garcia, Assistant Secretary for ICE. "As a former federal New York prosecutor, I know what a victory this extradition is and want to acknowledge the Hong Kong government for its assistance in seeing justice served."
Human smuggling and trafficking is a global multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that threatens national security and public safety while undermining the integrity of United States immigration laws. As part of ICE's effort to further coordinate its smuggling and trafficking capabilities, the agency has proposed the implementation of Critical Incident Response Teams, directed from a proposed ICE Smuggling Coordination Center that would deploy resources, equipment and manpower in key geographic areas nationwide.
I thought you were Sister Ping:)
Not to worry Ping, you'll only be 94 when you get out and you can start over.
Sister Ping: Living Buddha of Shengmei Village
By Zhang Huiyu, The World Journal, published in Chinese in Whitestone, New York, May 23, 2005
Sister Ping's fellow villagers in Shengmei spoke highly of her as their living Buddha. She is currently under trial in New York for human smuggling. Amid gratitude and sadness, villagers expressed their willingness to share her imprisonment each for one year, in an effort to pay back the help she has allegedly provided to get their relatives out of China.
Ping, the oldest of three children of the Zheng family, used to live at 398, a three-storied house within the village, which is now empty. She migrated to Hong Kong with her husband when she was in her early twenties.
Sister Ping on Trial, Villagers Voice Support
By Zhang Huiyu, The World Journal, published in Chinese in Whitestone, New York, May 22, 2005
Sister Ping, the notorious snakehead from mainland China, has a support group in her home village of Shengmei, Ting Jiang Township, Fuzhou, at a time when she is being tried as a criminal in the federal court in New York.
Her fellow villagers gathered on May 21 to offer moral support for Ping. A petition will be filed to the judge of this case in New York via a representative from Shengmei. They described Sister Ping as a living Buddha. Ninety percent of Shengmei villagers now residing overseas were brought out of the country with the help of Ping.
Smuggling of Immigrants Is Detailed as Trial Starts
By Julia Preston, New York Times, May 17, 2005
The notorious "Sister Ping" went on trial May 16 in the Federal District Court in Manhattan in New York City on charges of kidnapping and hostage taking.
Chen Chui Ping is the woman suspected of being responsible for masterminding the smuggling of hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States. She allegedly purchased the Golden Venture, the freighter that caught international attention when it ran aground on a beach off Queens in 1993; 10 illegal aliens drowned while trying to swim ashore.
Federal prosecutors say Ping successfully moved hundreds of illegal immigrants in the cargo holds of ships and kept them hostage in New York warehouses until they paid her fees -- up to $40,000 each.
Ping's lawyer, Lawrence Hochheiser, argued that Ping's only involvement with people smuggling was incidental to her underground but legal banking house.
She was in the U.S. from 1981 to 1994??? And she couldn't speak ANY English - she had to have a translator? Unbelievable!
So much for "loving America"!!
New York, NY: Cheng Chui Ping: 'Mother of snakeheads' Sentenced for 35 Years
BBC NEWS http://www.newsbbc.co.uk
Friday, 17 March 2006
US authorities say the jailing of Cheng Chui Ping for 35 years puts one of the world's most prolific human traffickers - or "snakeheads" - behind bars.
Cheng was convicted for organising the voyage of the Golden Venture, which had about 300 Chinese immigrants on board when it ran aground off New York in 1993. Ten of them died after being pitched into the sea.
Cheng, 57, is thought to have been responsible for the smuggling of many thousands of illegal immigrants.
Many new arrivals to New York's Chinatown in the 1990s would have owed their passage - and a great deal of money - to Cheng.
She became one of the most recognisable and revered figures in Chinatown - known as Sister Ping, or Big Sister Ping.
Cheng was an illegal immigrant herself. Born in 1949 in the poor farming village of Shengmei in Fujian province, she left her husband and family behind and set out for the West, travelling via Hong Kong and Canada before ending up in New York in 1981.
She entered business straight away, opening a grocery store, and starting on other ventures, but the US authorities say many of these became fronts for her people trafficking business.
Behind her Yeung Sun restaurant at 47 East Broadway, she ran a money-transfer service that undercut high street banks, providing fund transfers for many thousands of immigrants.
Prosecutors said her smuggling network was worth $40m (USD 23m) at its peak, and that immigrants could be charged tens of thousands of dollars for their passage.
"Aliens", as they are termed in the US, were crammed into planes, cars and trucks with fake floors, or would spend months in squalid conditions in shipping containers.
Business boomed in the early 1990s as, following the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, the US offered all Chinese students in the US the chance to stay. Thousands flooded in, using false papers to claim their place.
Court papers claimed she had been caught in connection with people smuggling and had agreed to work as an informant for the FBI, but that this did not put her off, and she only expanded her activities.
However, the tragedy of the Golden Venture raised the stakes, and US investigators were soon on her tail.
She returned to China in 1994, and with the FBI closing in she could not return to the US. At least, not under her real name. Officials estimate she made several trips under false identities until she was finally captured at Hong Kong airport in April 2000, carrying three different passports.
In a US court, she claimed she was innocent and only acted under threats from Triad gangs.
"I did not have the ability to arrange for them to be smuggled. When they were short of money, I lent it to them... I was taken advantage of a lot in Chinatown," she said.
However prosecutors dubbed her "the mother of all snakeheads", and said she was "one of the biggest... and most successful alien smugglers of all time".
Human Rights Abuses in China
- By Roy Maynard -
Growing congressional concern over the fate of Chinese refugees could unlock the prison doors that confine passengers from the immigrant-smuggling ship Golden Venture. Of the original 282 Chinese who survived when the ship went aground off Long Island two years ago, more than 180 are still in prisons around the United States. Others have been either released or deported - the most recent group was sent back to China late last month, despite what experts call well-founded fear of persecution and death.
But as more and more members of Congress learn the story of the Golden Venture refugees who claim to be fleeing China's forced-abortion and sterilization policies, more and more the Clinton administration is clamming up.
It would seem that the Immigration and Naturalization Service is guarding the wrong borders, according to Joan Blinn, a pro-life activist who has taken interest in the Golden Venture case. "They're guarding their own territory and their own sovereignty, at the expense of human rights. There are people who have offered to provide homes for every Chinese person in jail now but the INS would rather keep them locked up, away from the media and away from visitors."
Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) sent a scalding letter to both the Justice Department and the State Department earlier this month; in it they ask for information that could prove Clinton administration bungling has led to refugees being sent back to face gulag-style re-education camps and slave-labor political prisons.
"There is evidence, in the form of repeated statements by Chinese officials, that the Chinese government regards resistance to its population control policies as a form of political opposition" worthy of severe punishment, the letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Attorney General Janet Reno says. "Do the Departments of State and Justice disagree with this assessment? Is a forced abortion or sterilization just a normal law-enforcement technique that we should not regtard any differently than other actions of sovereign nations?"
Rep. Smith chairs the House committee that oversees human rights issues. "These are victims of forced abortion and forced sterilizations. We're trying to get the facts, but I consider this one of the most important human rights issues in the world today, and I think I can promise that Congress will be considering the issue very carefully."
Access to the refugees has been rare; one member of the press who managed to get in to speak to women in the Mississippi prison reported that "Dottie" (a name given to her by jailers) described her ordeal at the hands of a government determined to enforce its one-child policy. Dottie "gasped between tears as she described bleeding and cramps she suffered for four years after Chinese doctors forced in an intrauterine device following the birth of her second child," writes Nancie Katz in the Houston Chronicle. "When she paid a private physician $200 to remove it, word got out. The police came to sterilize her." Other women have described the forced abortion of full-term babies, while men describe their homes being leveled because they dared to have a second child.
Just goes to show how miserable the Chinese are and how desperate they are to get out that they would support a criminal like Ping.
It is more interesting than that. Some of that money from Sister Ping is traceable to David Chang and Tongshon Park (who are traceable to Clinton, Torricelli)
Golden Venture Survivors Face Another Hurdle
...is traceable to David Chang and Tongshon Park (who are traceable to Clinton, Torricelli)"
Heart recipients' hospital has China death-row link (Falon Gong Bump List)
China: Execution of Tibetan Prisoners (photos, warning: gruesome)
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