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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Mar. 11) - Eugenia Pecon, the Liberation Day queen candidate sponsored by the Guam Power Authority Employees Association, was leading her competition on July 20, 2002, the day before the annual Liberation Day parade.

With nearly 3,000 raffle books sold, at $5 a book, Pecon was about $4,000 ahead of one of her strongest competitors, who was sponsored by the Department of Education Employees Association.

But the last-minute purchase of $5,000 in raffle tickets on that final day of counting in July 2002 was enough to make Venus Larimer, 17, the DOE candidate, queen of the 2002 Liberation Day Parade, ahead of the 20-year-old Pecon.

Evelyn Claros, who was president of the GPA Employees Association at the time, said Larimer's final count was $15,686, and Pecon's final count was $14,655. Candidates are selected as queen based on the amount of money they and their sponsors raise through the sale of raffle tickets. Sponsors keep half of what they raise and the rest goes to the Liberation Day committee, for charity.

Prosecutors allege that former Department of Education Director Rosie Tainatongo and DOE employees Raymond Miranda and Ignacio Fejeran illegally used DOE money to buy those last-minute tickets on that Saturday in July. Tainatongo allegedly requested the money, Miranda allegedly ordered the check cut, and Fejeran allegedly conducted the transaction at a credit union.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges against them during their arraignment in the Superior Court of Guam yesterday morning.

Pecon, who is a student at the University of Portland, yesterday said she was not aware of where she stood on the final day of counting, but said she was confident she would be one of the top three candidates. Candidates sponsored by southern villages always are strong competitors, she said, as is the candidate sponsored by the DOE employees. Pecon is the daughter of former GPA chief financial officer Bruce Pecon.

"The girls and I, we got along really well. None of us had anything to do with the money. None of us talked about any of that through the whole process," Eugenia Pecon said. "(Venus) didn't have anything to do with this, and I didn't have anything to do with this. I mean, no one knew. It's normally a very fair game."

Eugenia Pecon said, if true, the allegations of using DOE money to buy those extra tickets is sad.

"The first time I heard about (the allegations), I was kind of upset. I was like -- well, that's not fair because we worked really hard for the money that I got. That was day and night, and everybody contributed. So, yeah, it really wasn't fair," Eugenia Pecon said. "That was a lot of money that they got to pull ahead of the rest of the girls. There's nothing I can do about it," Eugenia Pecon said. "Venus had nothing to do with any of it, ... and it's not fair for her to have to give up her title, and that's not what the whole game was about. It was about charity and doing things for our island."

March 11, 2004

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