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April 4, 2013

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5 get prison in smuggling 33 to US

FIVE people who helped 33 stowaways try to sneak into the United States inside airplanes received prison terms ranging from 19 months to 10 years for human trafficking yesterday, the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court said.

The convicts, two men and three women, are originally from the east Fujian Province. Shao Zhihua, the gang leader, is a 58-year-old naturalized US citizen. The court didn't specify the ruling for each convict.

According to the indictment, Shao and his nephew Chen Yanlin trained stowaways to get into the flight attendants' lounge at the rear of the plane using keys, screwdrivers and lubricants.

The stowaways first would take a flight from China to a transit country, usually the Philippines. They would hide in hollow areas in the flight attendants' lounge before the planes took off for the United States, prosecutors said.

Between March 2009 and June 2011, the five convicts taught the stowaways how to hide. They charged each one US$80,000, the court heard.

Some stowaways were arrested after being discovered by local police or foreign authorities. But it was not known how many of them succeeded or what happened to them later.

Shao arranged for the two female convicts, Shao Ping and Chen Jing, to guide the clients throughout the trip.

The two convicts said they also wanted to be stowaways, the court heard.

"I was Shao's girlfriend. He promised he would help me go to the US," Chen Jing told the court.

"He asked me to attend every training lesson and know the new clients. He also said we needed to take care of each other on the way," Chen Jing said.

"Not until very late did I know he made me a gang member in his business."

The fifth suspect, Lian Wen, said she was just trying to help her friends who wanted to go to the US.

In September 2009, gang member Chen Yikan was sentenced to 18 months in prison for attempting to smuggle three teenagers on a flight from Beijing to New York.


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