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Larson, Atalig, police officers, other public officials to be subpoenaed in corruption investigation

By Nancy I. Maanao

Larissa Larson

The CNMI House of Representatives has authorized subpoenas to Gov. Ralph Torres's two secretaries of finance - former secretary Larissa Larson and current office holder David Atalig, Jr. - to testify before the Judiciary and Governmental Operations committee.

Ms. Larson and Mr. Atalig both were incriminated by director of financial services Bernadita Palacios over three days of testimony she provided under oath to the committee. Their names and signatures also are littered over hundreds of pages of documents approving illegal travel and reimbursements for personal spending by Gov. Ralph Torres and his wife, Diann. Their signatures, according to Ms. Palacios, indicated their approval of the use and purpose of public funds expended by Mr. Torres, their boss.

The committee, which consists of Democrats and Republican Vice Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, also unanimously approved subpoenas related to three police officers, who have been assigned as personal security detail to the Torreses. Joey Cruz will be subpoenaed to testify before the committee. A subpoena duces tecum will be issued to the Department of Finance commanding the production of travel documents for Jhaneeka Atalig and Flora Aguon, also PSD to the Torreses.

The police officers were identified by former PSD and police officer I Jomalyn Gelacio in damning testimony she provided to the committee last week about travel conducted by the Torreses, for which these and other officers were present.

The committee also will be commanding documents from the Department of Public Safety's federally-funded boating safety program related to the seafaring of captains Adrian Mendiola and Emery Kaipat. Both were implicated by Gelacio in her testimony. The two captains are believed to have driven boats carrying the governor and the first lady throughout the Marianas, including for the infamous Deer Meat for Dinner excursion. Mr. Mendiola also will be subpoenaed to appear before the committee.

Juana Deleon Guerrero, a supervisor at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, also will be subpoenaed. As part of the inquiry the past week, committee members have exposed reimbursement memos showing the purchases of a battery and gasoline for vehicles and boats privately owned.

A subpoena will be issued to a private citizen, Erin Camacho. Kandit previously reported a reimbursement memo containing a receipt for the purchase of meals and a handwritten note by the governor regarding a meeting at a local restaurant. Ms. Camacho was dining with her father in March 2017 at this restaurant in celebration of his birthday. It is anticipated Ms. Camacho will confirm she and her father had no such meeting with the governor, as the note on the receipt indicated. Mr. Torres was reimbursed by taxpayers for that expense, according to the documents.

Finally, and in relation to the production and dissemination of the illegal non-disclosure agreements that inaugurated the corruption hearings, the committee will be commanding the appearance of DPS officials Daniel Joab, Jose Saures, Alex Sakisat, and Simon Manicop.

The third witness scheduled to testify at today's hearing, special assistant for administration Mathilde Rosario, will testify Thursday, July 15 at 10:15 a.m. The committee agreed to a change in schedule after Ms. Rosario's attorney, Viola Alepuyo contacted chairwoman Celina Roberto Babauta informing her of her inability to represent her client in person due to her quarantine from recent travel with the governor to Korea.

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