10 Jan 2019
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
OFFICIAL documents obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through the CNMI Office of the Public Auditor showed that Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig authorized an island delegationâ€™s trip to attend a political rally on Guam in June 2018, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI in federal court on Nov. 28, 2018.
Also in November, the FBI said it seized the cellphones issued by the CNMI government to Mayor Atalig and his girlfriend Evelyn Atalig, as well as the cell phones issued to Dennis Mendiola, Rota resident deputy commissioner for the Department of Fire and Emergency and Medical Services; and Josepha Manglona and Rota resident director for the Department of Finance, in order to retrieve their WhatsApp conversation during their trip to Guam.
The FBI seized the phones by virtue of a search warrant signed by District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona.
The Rota maÂyor and Evelyn Atalig have been accused of arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.
In Nov. 2018, the U.S. government filed a superseding indictment charging Mayor Atalig and Evelyn Atalig with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.
In CNMI Superior Court, Mayor Atalig and his seven Rota resident directors were charged by the Office of the Attorney General with theft and misconduct in public office.
The CNMI government said the mayor and the resident directors took government-funded per diems and salary compensation to attend a GOP campaign on Guam on June 23, 2018.
The mayor and his co-defendants have pled not guilty.
Recently, the federal court approved the mayorâ€™s request to travel to Guam to attend the Association of Mariana Islands Mayors, Vice Mayors and Elected Municipal Council Membersâ€™ 25th general assembly on Jan. 9, 2019.
The Rota mayor and his girlfriend are out of custody, but must comply with pre-trial release conditions.
Their jury trial is scheduled for March 12, 2019.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/109915-fbi-rota-mayor-authorized-delegation-trip-to-guam