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Orange County

Immigrants to Describe Sea Journey

Courts: Five of the Chinese men who landed on a local beach last month will testify against ship's captain and engineer.

June 08, 2002|JACK LEONARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five of 10 Chinese men who waded ashore in Orange County last month will testify against the ship's captain and engineer, who have been charged with smuggling.

The other five face deportation hearings in the coming weeks, officials said.

The 10 men paddled ashore north of Laguna Beach, naked and clinging to makeshift floats. They said they paid $10,000 each to be smuggled from China through Taiwan and into the United States.

But the captain and the engineer told a different story.

Captain Jin Yinn Wang said in court last month that he never intended to steer near California. He said he and his first mate were fishing for shark 600 miles off Hawaii when they picked up the 10 men as crew members. Where they came from was not made clear.

Wang said the new crew members hijacked his boat, the Fu Ching. When the boat arrived off Laguna Beach, Wang said, he was bound and locked in a storage room. He told investigators that the men stole a ring, equipment and cash before jumping overboard.

Wang said he freed himself and tried to call for help. U.S. Coast Guard officials said they were not aware of any mayday calls. Authorities said they doubt Wang's story.

The would-be immigrants who came ashore told investigators they were forbidden to move without permission from the captain, who demanded they call him "boss."

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