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Last updateThu, 20 Jun 2019 12am







    Wednesday, June 19, 2019-7:01:35P.M.






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Judge: Rota mayor’s 3 additional trips to be included as evidence

CHIEF Federal Judge Ramona V. Manglona has agreed to include Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig’s three additional trips as trial evidence introduced by a U.S. prosecutor in the case.

In granting the U.S. government’s motion on Friday, the judge found that the additional trips were direct evidence.

Mayor Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig are accused of arranging CNMI-government funded trips to California, Palau, Guam and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses

Evelyn Atalig, a public service intern and an assistant for women’s affairs on Rota, is represented by attorney Steven Pixley.

In Nov. 2018, the U.S. government filed a superseding indictment against the Ataligs, charging them with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’ Malley asked the court to admit as evidence three additional trips not included in the superseding indictment.

Those trips are: (1) January 3-7, 2018 to Guam for a Chamorro “amot” local medicine conference; (2) late June and early July 2018 to South Korea for a Little League baseball tournament in which a Rota team participated; and (3) July 17-22, 2018 to Guam in preparation for the Liberation Day Parade.

On March 7, O’Malley filed a notice stating that the U.S. government would introduce a fourth additional trip: the July 13-15 trip to Guam for the Asan Landing Memorial ceremony.

The Rota mayor, through his court-appointed counsel David Banes, opposed the U.S. government’s motions, stating that it has “not presented any information showing the three additional trips are inextricably intertwined with the charges or tend to prove a material point.”

At a motion hearing on March 15, Office of Public Auditor investigator Travis Hurst testified for the U.S. government.

Hurst said for the “Jan.3-7 conference, the defendants claimed attendance all days but actually only attended the first and last days; that for the June 27-July 9 trip to Korea, the defendants attended only part of the tournament and Evelyn did not completely reimburse the cost of air travel; that during the July 13-15 trip to Guam, the defendants attended a political rally on July 14; and that during the July 17-22 trip to Guam, the defendants also attended political events.”

After considering Hurt’s testimony, Judge Manglona said the superseding indictment clearly put the defendants on notice that “the charges are not limited to the five trips described therein.”

She added, “Evidence of other trips taken for personal or political purposes at government expense goes to the existence of a scheme to defraud. It also goes to show the elements of a conspiracy to commit a federal offense.”