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By Lindablue F. Romero

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Nov. 30, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---Former Tinian Mayor James Masga Mendiola and three others have been indicted by a grand jury for four counts of federal criminal violations in connection with cattle rustling on Tinian.

Mr. Mendiola, 50, surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Nov. 19, 1999 and was arraigned in the U.S. District Court. He pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to conceal and dispose stolen property.

The former mayor and congressman of the island municipality, who is eyeing a political comeback in the Tinian special elections to be held next year following the resignation of Sen. Herman Manglona, was released on bail. Mr. Manglona, also a former mayor, quit the Senate post after pleading guilty to charges of bribe taking, mail fraud and jury tampering.

Also named defendants were Herman Palacios Aldan, 31; Alexander San Nicolas Borja, 30; and Franklin Borja Mundo, 32.

According to Frederick A. Black, United States Attorney for Guam and the CNMI, the defendants carried out a plot to steal and butcher cattle owned by the Micronesian Development Corp. Mr. Aldan and Mr. Borja pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the investigation, since late 1998 the four would sneak into the MDC pastures and shoot two to three head of cattle on a weekly basis. They would then butcher the beef in the field, haul the meat out in pieces, transport it and then sell it to people on Saipan.

MDC, which operates the largest ranch on Tinian, has lost more than 120 head of cattle amounting to $134,000 from the scheme allegedly perpetrated by the four.

All the accused face charges of conspiracy to conceal stolen property within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., conspiracy to dispose of stolen livestock which is part of interstate or foreign commerce, and disposing of stolen livestock which is part of interstate or foreign commerce.

Mr. Aldan and Mr. Mundo were also slapped with a felony charge for possessing a firearm.

Both Aldan and Borja were arrested by the FBI on Nov. 19, 1999 and arraigned on Nov. 23, 1999. Mundo surrendered to the FBI on Nov. 29, 1999 and made an initial appearance before the court. All the four accused were released after posting bond pending trial.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CNMI Organized Crime Task Force as well as the local police on Tinian conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Wood will prosecute the case on behalf of the United States.

The trial for three of the defendants, excluding Mr. Mundo, has been set for January 24, 1999.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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