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Last updateSat, 23 Sep 2017 12am

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    Friday, September 22, 2017-7:15:26A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

3 individuals arrested in Oregon for NMI tax rebate check fraud plead not guilty

THE three individuals arrested in Portland, Oregon for fraud involving CNMI tax refund checks pled not guilty during their telephonic initial appearance and arraignment in federal court on Wednesday morning.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Lorfing appeared on behalf of the federal government. Defendant Brooke Phillips was represented by attorney Mark Hanson and Assistant Federal Defender Ruben Iniguez. Attorney Steven Pixley appeared on behalf of defendant Kenatis M. Alafanso while attorney David Banes appeared on behalf of defendant Larry M. Tagabuel.

From left, Larry M. Tagabuel, Kenatis M. Alafanso and Brooke Phillips.  Multnomah County Sheriff Office/The Oregonian

All defendants and Assistant Federal Defender Iniguez appeared via video teleconference from the Office of Probation in the District of Oregon. Attorney Ramon Pagan appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant Phillips.

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona arraigned the defendants on Wednesday and said the matter was ordered unsealed in this district as well as in the District of Oregon.

The defendants through their lawyers waived the formal advisement of their constitutional rights and the reading of the charges against them.

Judge Manglona set the jury trial for July 26, 2016 at 10 a.m. and ordered all three defendants to appear for the trial. She also ordered them to remain in contact with their attorneys in preparation for the trial.

The judge at the same time granted Iniguez’s request that the defendants remain on continued release under the same terms and conditions already ordered by Magistrate Judges Patricia Sullivan and John Acosta in the District of Oregon.

The three defendants were indicted by a grand jury on May 5, 2016 for depositing into their bank accounts counterfeit checks totaling $54,234.93 from August to December 2015. The three are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and fraud by wire. Their case is currently being transferred from the District of Oregon to the District of the NMI.

The indictment states that after Tagabuel received a CNMI tax rebate check mailed from Saipan to Oregon, he used a high resolution scanner to make counterfeit copies of the check.

The three defendants then opened individual checking accounts at various banks and deposited the counterfeit checks to these accounts, later withdrawing large amounts of cash from various ATM locations in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington state from August to December 2015.