POHNPEI GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE UNDER PROBE

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By Jaime Espina

KOLONIA, Pohnpei (Marianas Variety, Jan. 2) — Defeated Pohnpei gubernatorial candidate William Iriarte and his wife, Lily Jean, are the subject of an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office for their alleged mishandling of insurance policy premiums, including those of state government employees.

Attorney General Edwel Santos said they were looking at the possibility of filing criminal charges against the couple if the evidence warrants it.

Among the possible charges, he said, are embezzlement, fraud and grand larceny.

The Iriartes, along with a former associate, Emy Santos, are already facing a civil suit filed in the Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court by Missouri-based Individual Assurance Co., the firm for which they used as agents.

The charge alleges that the Iriartes collected but failed to remit $199,925.37 from IAC policy holders from 1998 to 2001, while Santos failed to remit another $122,418.03 from May 1, 2001 to July 2, 2003.

While declining to provide details of the just-started probe, Edwel Santos said the state police had already received orders to begin its own investigation into the matter.

He stressed that the criminal charges that could be filed against the Iriartes were separate from the civil suit the couple already face before the FSM Supreme Court.

The decision to investigate Iriarte have nothing to do with his having run for governor against victorious incumbent Johnny David, Edwel Santos said.

Iriarte lost his bid after coming in last during the Nov. 11 elections, leaving David to square off against old rival and former governor Del Pangelinan in runoff elections on Dec. 9.

Edwel Santos also acknowledged that should his office decide to file a criminal case, Emy Santos, who he stressed was no relation, "may be asked to be a witness for the state."

In a letter to Treasury and Administration Director Itor Harris, the AG said that a "telephone call with Emy Santos this afternoon (Dec. 15) reveals that a scheme was developed by the defendants Iriarte in the insurance deal when they were moving to Saipan and defendant Emy Santos entered into the contract without knowing the consequences."

The letter requested Harris to provide the AG’s office with "the record of the Pohnpei government employees’ salary deductions on their respective paychecks during the period 1998 to 2001 and May 1, 2001 to July 2, 2003" and to "cause an officer or employee of the Department of Treasury and Administration to print out samples of payroll deductions made of employees of Pohnpei government payable to IAC as premium for the insurance policies held by the respective employees" for the same period.

January 2, 2004

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

 

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