Customs authorities have seized 13 small craft vessels associated with illegally transporting Chinese citizens to Guam since 2022.

Customs authorities have seized 13 small craft vessels associated with illegally transporting Chinese citizens to Guam since 2022. (Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency)

Two Chinese citizens will serve time in jail for attempting to illegally transport a group of 14 people from Saipan to Guam in 2023, the U.S. attorney for Guam announced Friday.

ChangCai Dong, 61, and YongBing Tang, 54, were each sentenced July 2 to 30 days in jail, a year of supervised release and a $100 fine. Both will be required to return to China once their sentence is served, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands said in a news release Friday.

The two were among 12 Chinese and two U.S. boaters rescued by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard after their boat ran out of fuel near Rota in July 2023. The group was attempting an “illegal transit” between Saipan and Guam, according to the release.

“Their boat, overloaded and poorly equipped for rough seas, ran out of fuel near the island of Rota and drifted for more than 14 hours before the crew radioed a distress call,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in the release.

Saipan, about 80 miles northeast of Rota and 140 miles northeast of Guam, provides visa waivers that permit Chinese citizens to stay up to two weeks and citizens of other countries to stay up to 45 days.

U.S. Attorney Shawn Anderson in the news release called the case an “abuse” of the visa waiver program that “creates substantial risk to those involved in these voyages” and their rescuers.

“Our federal and local partners will continue to target unlawful travel between the [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] and Guam,” he said in the release.

Carmela Rapadas, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, acknowledged Stars and Stripes’ request Monday for additional information but had not responded that afternoon.

The two defendants are at least the fourth and fifth Chinese citizens to be convicted on charges of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens this year, according to the U.S. attorney for Guam’s website.

In another case, Donglin Xu , 49, and Qinglang Li, 52, were sentenced on May 31 to 12 months and eight months imprisonment, respectively, along with one year of supervised release, 50 hours of community service and a $100 fine.

The two attempted to bring another 12 Chinese citizens from Saipan to Guam for approximately $5,000 a person. All 14 were convicted, sentenced and ordered to return to China on the same charges, but Xu and Li were given stronger sentences for “profiting from and having leadership roles in the scheme,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a June 5 news release.

Chinese citizens in Saipan under the visa waiver program may attempt to enter Guam in search of work, U.S. Homeland Security and Guam officials told Stars and Stripes in February. The problem is further complicated by differing policies, with federal agencies and territorial agencies, such as Guam or the Northern Marianas, having different procedures and jurisdictions.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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