By Alexander Dworkowitz
A Flushing woman recently was sentenced to two years in prison for helping smuggle 18 Chinese immigrants, four of whom died, into the United States through Seattle.
Jin Ma, a permanent U.S. resident living in Flushing, was sentenced to two years in prison April 26, said Elizabeth Tyree, a court clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
Ma had pleaded guilty Oct. 29 to alien smuggling resulting in death. She acted in concert with two Chinese nationals, Kam Hung Chan and Chao Kang Lin, who also plead guilty, Lord said.
The three brought 18 people from China into the United States in a shipping container stowed inside a vessel, prosecutors said.
The ship, known as the M/V Cape May, arrived off the Port of Seattle in January 2000. The 18 passengers had agreed to pay the three $38,000 for being brought into the country, prosecutors said.
Three passengers died on the voyage from China, prosecutors said. The remaining travelers headed to New York state, but a fourth passenger died upon reaching New York City, prosecutors said.
The trio was originally indicted on charges of smuggling last May, but those indictments were not revealed to the public until after the three were arrested together July 10, Tyree said.
Lin was sentenced to nine years in prison last Thursday, and Chan received a one-year sentence in January, Tyree said.
Their sentences reflected their extent of involvement in the case, Lord said.
“Ma was found to play a minimal role,” Lord said. “She came out to Seattle and rented a van.”
Ma helped Lin arrange transportation for the smuggled Chinese citizens from Seattle to New York, Lord said.
Lin received the largest sentence because he was the one who was in contact with smugglers, known as “Snakeheads,” in China, Lord said.
Chan traveled within the container and communicated with Lin using his cell phone, Lord said.
The 17 months Ma has served in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody was deducted from her sentence, Lord said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.