An Irvine lawyer this afternoon lost his fight to gain pre-trial release from custody following his May 18 arrest for alleged illegal involvement in the Chinese birth tourism scandal.
U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney made the decision against China-native Ken Zhiyi Liang after federal prosecutor Jerry C. Yang asked him to overrule a prior magistrate judge's decision to allow the defendant's pre-trial release on $100,000 bail.
According to Yang, there's evidence Liang, 38, may have already smuggled two witnesses in the case back to China and he bragged to a government informant wearing audio and video devices that he knew how to get out of the U.S. on an airplane without possessing necessary papers.
"The defendant has an enormous incentive to flee," Yang told the judge.
The government complaint states that agents arrested Liang--who earned a California Bar license--after he tried to get a $6,000 payment from a Chinese woman in exchange for arranging her quiet departure the country before she could become a material witness in the case.
"He knew what he was doing," Yang told Carney. "We have a very, very strong case."
Kenneth Reed, Liang's Santa Ana-based defense lawyer who initially sought a $50,000 bail, complained that government officials say his client is a flight risk based on potentially weak evidence they have so far kept secret.
But calling the case "serious," Carney said concerns about Liang fleeing were legitimate based on an affidavit filed by a federal agent who described the defendant's role in a pay-to-play scheme to brings pregnant Chinese woman to Southern California apartment complexes so their newborns would become automatic U.S. citizens.
Yang promised Reed he would receive evidence implicating Liang by next week.
Reed in turn told Carney he will renew his request for bail if he believes there are holes in the government's case.
Liang, who faces a potential 20-year prison punishment if convicted, is scheduled to re-appear in court on June 22 inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
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State bar records show the defendant graduated from Case Western School of Law in Cleveland and received his license to practice in California in June 2005.
He had a clean disciplinary record.