A woman who helped smuggle a Chinese wife and husband into the United States after they fled that country to avoid a forced abortion pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Cheng Chui-Ping, a resident alien who lives in New York City, admitted paying an undercover Canadian police agent $340 to transport them and their nephew from the Toronto airport to the United States in March 1989.
The wife and husband were granted political asylum in the United States because of their opposition to the forced-abortion policy in China.
Although the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service named Ms. Cheng, 41, as a leader of a ring that charged aliens $23,000 apiece to be smuggled into the United States, she was charged only with the 1989 incident.
It was uncovered during a covert investigation by the Immigration Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of traffic in illegal aliens between Toronto and New York City.
In a statement submitted to U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, Ms. Cheng said the woman whom she was trying to smuggle was her cousin, Tsui Kim Wong.
But government agents said the woman actually was Sai Zhen Wang, who fled China with her husband and nephew so she would not be forced to undergo an abortion under China's harsh family-planning laws.
The family was taken by undercover agents to Albany and arrested at the bus station there. Also arrested was Tommy Kong, an associate of Ms. Cheng, who allegedly paid the immigration agent $3,000 to drive the family from the Canadian border to Albany.
Late last month, U.S. immigration officials in Buffalo granted political asylum to Sai Zhen Wang and her husband, Li Jin Lin.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Campana said the 1989 case was the only one in which the government had uncovered enough evidence to bring charges against Ms. Cheng.
"There's a difference between knowing someone's background and being able to obtain an indictment," he said.
The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Ms. Cheng probably would face no more than 14 months in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 8.