Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced Zhiyang Yang, age 61, formerly of Silver Spring, Maryland, to 14 months in federal prison, which is time served, for making illegal payments to an immigration official. The sentence was imposed on October 26, 2021.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Jim Valenzuela of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR); and Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore.
According to his plea agreement, Yang entered into the United States on a tourist visa in May 2018 and never departed, contrary to the terms and duration of that visa. Later, Yang was identified by immigration authorities and ordered to report regularly to an ICE, Enforcement and Removal contractor. The contractor managed the supervision of certain individuals during the pendency of immigration proceedings.
On at least four occasions, Yang provided cash to a case manager (Public Official 1) in relation to immigration matters.
First, on September 27, 2019, Yang met with Public Official 1 for a scheduled appointment as part of Yang’s monitoring agreement with ICE, pending Yang’s immigration proceedings. An interpreter was participating in the meeting by telephone while both Public Official 1 and Yang were physically present in a room. In the meeting with Public Official 1, Yang stated that he “wanted his freedom back.” Public Official 1 informed Yang that he was on the lowest form of monitoring, but Public Official 1 could potentially reduce the frequency of Yang’s required office visits. Public Official 1 also informed Yang that there was a process for the reduction of required meetings. Immediately after Public Official 1 ended the call with the interpreter, Yang looked over his shoulders before offering Public Official 1 several folded bills of cash. Public Official 1 refused the money twice and left the office to make copies of documents for Yang. Yang then concealed $100 under Public Official 1’s keyboard. Public Official 1 reported the conduct to the appropriate authorities.
On October 11, 2019, Yang met with Public Official 1 for an immigration monitoring meeting. At that time, Public Official 1 was acting in an undercover capacity at the direction of law enforcement. Upon entering Public Official 1’s office, Yang placed $200 in cash in Public Official 1’s pocket and asked for reduced monitoring. During their conversation, Public Official 1 stated that if he were to help Yang with less reporting, as Yang requested, Public Official 1 would need “more money”. Yang subsequently asked if $1,000 would suffice and said that he could provide it before the next scheduled appointment.
During an in-office meeting with Public Official 1 on October 25, 2019, Yang gave Public Official 1 $700 in cash, in exchange for Public Official 1 reducing the frequency of Yang’s in-office visits. Yang then inquired about obtaining additional immigration benefits, asking if he could obtain legal status earlier, as he wanted “as much freedom as possible.”
On December 20, 2019, Public Official 1 stated there could be another way to help Yang obtain a Green Card (officially known as a “Permanent Resident Card” which allows an immigrant to live and work permanently in the United States), but that it would be illegal. In response, Yang stated that he would very much appreciate that and would compensate those involved. Public Official 1 then estimated a price of $15,000 for Yang to obtain the Green Card. At the end of the conversation, Yang asked if he could pay upon the next visit. At the next office visit, Yang made a $5,000 down payment towards the illegal Green Card.
From December 2019 to August 28, 2020, Yang continued to speak with Public Official 1 and other immigration officials, who were also acting in an undercover capacity, to arrange installment payments in the effort to illegally obtain a Green Card. In several instances, the officials reiterated that this was illegal activity. Yang’s response was “not to worry.”
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron praised ICE OPR and HSI Baltimore for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright, who prosecuted the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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