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Last updateSat, 19 Oct 2019 12am

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    Friday, October 18, 2019-10:12:23A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Court orders settlement conference in MV Luta lawsuit

SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo last week ordered a settlement conference in the government’s lawsuit over the $400,000 funds “loaned” to the owner of MV Luta, Luta Mermaid LLC.

Judge Govendo set the settlement conference for July 10, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Before Typhoon Yutu slammed into Saipan and Tinian on Oct. 24-25, 2018, Presiding Judge Robert Naraja had set a bench trial for Oct. 29, 2018 at 9 a.m.

The government, through the chief of the Office of the Attorney General’s civil division, Christopher M. Timmons, and attorney William M. Fitzgerald, who represents Luta Mermaid LLC, later asked the court to strike the previous scheduling order and set a status conference for Feb. 16, 2019.

However, no new scheduling order has been issued in the case except for the mandatory settlement conference order.

In Feb. 2017, the Office of the Attorney General, on behalf of the Department of Finance, filed a complaint against MV Luta registered owner, Luta Mermaid LLC, and its officials, Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S, Mendiola and Fidel Mendiola Jr.

They were accused of receiving public funds without authorization, wrongful retention of public funds, unjust enrichment and using public funds for personal use.

On March 20, 2015, the Rota Legislative Delegation adopted Resolution 19-3 which authorized the secretary of Finance “to pay for fuel, lubrication and costs necessary for the maiden voyage of MV Luta from Louisiana to its new home portat Rota and to provide for the personnel and operational costs of the Office of the Mayor of Rota.”

Later, Abelina Mendiola, president of Luta Mermaid LLC, said they were “shocked” to receive a demand for payment from the Department of Finance.

It was reported that MV Luta has been renamed MV Mariana after being acquired by its new owner based on Guam. It serves Saipan, Rota, Tinian and Guam.