By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/29/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Was she a monster - or the gateway to a better life? Cheng Chui Ping, known to many as "Sister Ping" smuggled countless Chinese immigrants into the United States using her clothing store as a front. Creating a lucrative business and a thriving network that brought those searching for a better life, she died from cancer last week in a Texas prison.
"Sister Ping" was finally arrested in the FBI's efforts to bust the notorious Fuk Ching gang, with which she had been associated.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Authorities referred to her as the mother of all "snakeheads," a derogatory term used to describe people involved with human smuggling. Cheng arranged for as many as 3,000 people, chiefly from China's Fujian province to make their way illegally to the States. She racked up a fortune of $40 million over 20 years. She was known to charge as much as $35,000 per person. She also helped finance the Golden Venture, a vessel carrying nearly 300 starving immigrants that ran aground in Queens, N.Y. leaving 10 of the passengers dead.
Cheng was finally arrested in the FBI's efforts to bust the notorious Fuk Ching gang, with which she had been associated. She was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison in 2006, the maximum she could have received. Her attorney at the time said that her sentence shouldn't be harsher than the sentences of the gang members who'd testified against her, one of whom had confessed to eight murders.
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An assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute Cheng called her "one of the most powerful and most successful alien smugglers of our time." Cheng is also described by some from New York's Chinatown as having an "international brand. She was thought of as being reliable and efficient in the dangerous profession of human smuggling trade.
She was definitely in it for the money. "They said, for those who made the trip safely but could not pay, Ms. Cheng sent vicious gangs to abduct and beat, torture or rape them until relatives made good on their debts," according to the New York Times.
She enjoyed widespread popularity in New York's Chinatown. "In fact, [Ping] handled accidents in a way that drew more customers: when passengers were caught by immigration officials, she would forgive the balance of her fee; when passengers died, she paid for their burial," journalist Patrick Radden Keefe says.
"Sister Ping's name became so highly esteemed that other snakeheads fraudulently claimed to be affiliated with her in order to attract business."
Many in New York's Chinatown praised Cheng following news of her death.
"We can only say good things about her," one immigrant says. Another called her a "modern day Robin Hood."
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