Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 21 Nov 2019 12am

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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-3:53:03P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Rota official gets suspended sentence

ROTA Department of Labor Resident Director Dexter Apatang has pled guilty to misconduct in public office and was sentenced to one year in prison, but all suspended. He was also placed on one-year probation.

As part of his plea deal with the government, Apatang will testify against his co-defendants.

In a minute order issued on Oct. 15, 2019, Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja, noted that Apatang appeared at an arraignment on Sept 27, 2019 without a lawyer.

Apatang was ordered to pay $400 restitution to the CNMI government. It will be deducted from his salary, in the amount of $100 per payroll until the full amount is paid.

Apatang was also required to pay $25 in court costs plus a probation fee to be set by the Adult Probation Office.

As part of the plea agreement, Apatang “shall work with the [CNMI] Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and testify in both local and federal trials…. [In return,] the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam and the NMI will not file any federal charges against Apatang….”

Chief prosecutor John Bradley appeared and represented the CNMI government in the arraignment in Superior Court.

Apatang’s co-defendants are Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, Department of Public Works Resident Director Vanessa Charfauros, Department of Commerce Resident Director Dean Manglona, Department of Finance Resident Director Josepha Manglona, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Resident Director Magdalena Mesngon, former Department of Public Safety Resident Director Eusebio Manglona and former Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Resident Director Dennis Mendiola. Except for Magdalena Mesngon, they all pled not guilty at the arraignment on Sept. 27, 2019.

Dennis Mendiola, who has been appointed DFEMS commissioner by the governor, did not appear in court for the arraignment, but attorney Mark Hanson appeared on behalf of Mendiola’s attorney, Bruce Berline, through teleconference. Mendiola’s arraignment was continued to Oct. 25 at 9 a.m.

As for Magdalena Mesngon, she had agreed to settle the case against her by participating in an adult diversion program under the CNMI Adult Probation Office.

The CNMI government reported to the court that she has completed the program.

The program “is a voluntary alternative to criminal adjudication that allows a person accused of a crime to fulfill a set of conditions or complete a formal program designed to address, treat, or remedy issues related to or raised by the allegation. Upon successful completion of the conditions or program, the charges against the defendant are dismissed or not filed.”

Judge Naraja said he will hear all motions at a status conference and pretrial conference on Nov. 22, 2019, at 9 a.m. at the Rota courthouse.

On Aug. 30, 2019, Judge Naraja allowed the government to file a second amended information against the defendants, charging each of them with misconduct in public office. The government omitted the theft charge that were previously filed against the defendants.

According to the amended information, from June 1 to Aug 30, 2018, the defendants committed misconduct in public office.

The government said the Rota officials took government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

Misconduct in public office is punishable “for a period of not more than one year, or fined not more than $1,000, or both.”

In a separate case filed in federal court, Mayor Atalig and his girlfriend Evelyn Atalig are accused of arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.

The superseding indictment filed by the federal government charged the Ataligs with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from a program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

Recently, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the request of the Ataligs to postpone their trial scheduled for Oct.1, 2019.

Their federal jury trial is now scheduled for Jan. 8, 2020 at 10 a.m.