CNMI LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CHARGED WITH FRAUD

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Calls charges against him ‘outrageous’

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 11, 2008) – Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Villagomez said yesterday the charges against him were fabricated and that the federal court should dismiss the indictment.

Villagomez, through counsel David J. Lujan, said the U.S. government's conduct in bringing the charges against him was "outrageous."

Lujan said the U.S. government used "deceptive and coercive" means to fabricate a charge against the lieutenant governor.

"Specifically, it used the Public Auditor of the CNMI to create the appearance that witnesses, most, if not all, government employees of the CNMI, were compelled to cooperate with the United States, and by coaching, instructing, and training a named defendant in this action, Anthony Guerrero, to unsuccessfully attempt to entice defendant to commit a criminal violation of some sort to fabricate a case against him," the Guam lawyer said.

Lujan said that Guerrero tried in vain from July 20 through July 22, 2008, to entrap Villagomez with several taped phone calls.

"It can only be assumed that the government provided him with the equipment to make and record the calls, and coached him. The circumstances support an evidentiary hearing on these issues," the lawyer said.

Lujan attached in the motion to dismiss a copy of the transcripts of telephone conversations between Villagomez and Guerrero.

Guerrero is a former executive director of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

As shown by the transcripts, Lujan said, Villagomez clearly advised Guerrero to retain an attorney for his protection and to simply tell the truth.

"If Guerrero was already telling the truth, why the attempt to entrap Villagomez other than at the behest and instruction of the government? Villagomez had no predisposition to commit any crime at any time," he said.

Yet the U.S. government used these covert and misleading methods [and possibly more] to try and trap Villagomez, Lujan said.

"Granted, the government must have a certain leeway to conduct its criminal investigations; however, it should not include the deceptive attempts to create a crime where none exists," he said.

Lujan said the U.S. government's behavior calls for the dismissal of the indictment if its action is "excessive, flagrant, scandalous, intolerable and offensive as to violate due process."

The trial of Villagomez, along with his co-defendants, has been set for March 23, 2009.

The deadline for Villagomez to file pre-trial motions was set no later than yesterday, Nov. 10.

Villagomez, former Commerce Secretary James Santos, Joaquina Santos, and former CUC executive director Guerrero were indicted with conspiring to bilk CUC out of thousands of dollars through business deals involving needless chemical purchases for CUC.

Villagomez and the Santos couple have insisted on their innocence. Guerrero has already entered a guilty plea.

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