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Wil Castro & Ralph Torres's Catch-22

By Jacob Nakamura

Guam Sen. Wil Castro was the topic of discussion in today's meeting of the Commonwealth Legislature's special committee investigating the corrupt activities of his friend, CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres. Today, Congresswoman Tina Sablan presented a Catch-22 involving documents and official statements involving Gov. Mr. Torres, Mr. Castro, and a $189 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch.

Records indicate Mr. Torres used Commonwealth funds to purchase the alcohol and gave it to Mr. Castro. Mr. Castro said he never received such a gift. If Mr. Torres is telling the truth, then Mr. Castro has committed a crime on Guam. If Mr. Castro is telling the truth, then Mr. Torres committed a crime in the Commonwealth. Only one of them can be telling the truth.

On January 30, 2019, fresh back from a series of trips to Guam and stateside, Mr. Torres submitted a request for reimbursement of enclosed receipts of purchases Mr. Torres made in cash and personal credit cards. Mr. Torres wrote in the memo to then-Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson a series of justifications for the Commonwealth's taxpayers to reimburse his personal expenditures because the purchases, according to him, were for official purposes.

Ms. Larson approved the reimbursements and Mr. Torres was paid by the taxpayers for the purchases he made.

Among the receipts enclosed to the reimbursement memo was a January 7, 2019 T Galleria DFS Saipan purchase of a $189 bottle of scotch, discounted by 10 percent for a final purchase price of $170.10. Written at the bottom margin of the receipt is the note, "Gift for Guam Senator Will Castro."

Kandit broke this story on November 26, 2019, in the article titled Guam Senator Wil Castro gifts from CNMI Governor raising eyebrows. At the time, Mr. Castro told Kandit that he had not received such a gift.

Had Mr. Castro received such a gift, he would be in violation of Guam law, as he has not disclosed the receipt of such a high-value gift since it was allegedly received.

Ms. Sablan emailed Mr. Castro to ask for his version of the story, and on July 3, 2020, Mr. Castro responded:

"In January of 2019 following the coordination of donated relief items to the CNMI as a result of Super-typhoon Yutu I hosted a reception for volunteers and officials at my residence. This was not an official function. I've had a number of social functions before and after January all of which were for the same purpose, to appreciate those who've volunteered time, effort and/or items to assist residents of the CNMI following the destruction of the super-typhoon.
"As with all social gatherings at my house, food and drinks were donated and prepared by family and friends voluntarily. The events were after 5pm.
"As I recall, many in attendance, some of whom are government officials, may have contributed. Governor Torres was in attendance. He and his guests contributed something to the event either in the form or food or drinks.
"Whatever was brought by the governor, I assure you that it was not delivered to me as a personal gift.
"Any and all items were placed on the tables and made available for all guests to consume."

Congressmen John Paul Sablan and Vice Speaker Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero expressed the need to find out whose story is true.

The committee voted unanimously to subpoena documents related to this and other expenditures of the governor.

Mr. Castro is the Republican Party of Guam's nominee for delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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