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Lin charged with stealing $500,000 in U.S. federal funds

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, June 29, 2011) - The Marshall Islands High Court dismissed criminal charges Monday against local businessman David Chin Tung Lin, saying the government "has failed to show…that the defendant had knowledge of the criminal activities which were the ends of the conspiracy."

It is the first significant set-back to prosecution that since last November has charged 12 people with stealing more than US$500,000 in U.S. federal funding from the Ministry of Health.

Lin, who owns Home Special Supply and Special Supply, two Majuro retail operations, is the first of 12 people charged for defrauding the Marshall Islands government of tens of thousands of dollars to see the charges against him dismissed by the court for lack of evidence.

Judge James Plasman issued the ruling after oral argument by Chief Prosecutor Tubosoye Brown and Lin’s lawyer assistant public defender Karotu Tiba. Brown said he planned to file new set of criminal charges against Lin in an effort continue legal action against him.

Lin’s case was one of three that was joined for the preliminary hearing to decide if there was enough evidence to move forward to trial. Brown had recently amended the action against Lin, putting 18 charges that he was involved in five incidents of obtaining checks from the government but not supplying any services for the money that totaled about US$80,000.

Plasman noted in his ruling that while David Lin is the owner of the stores, it is his brother Ben Lin and Ben’s wife Claire who actually manage them.

"There is no direct evidence that (David Lin) conspired, by entering into an agreement or understanding relating to the charged crimes, with any of the conspirators in this case," Plasman said.

Brown argued, however, that an "agreement" could be inferred by the fact that David Lin owned the business, the staff were his employees, all five checks were deposited to the business account, and the proceeds of the checks were remitted to David Lin.

But Plasman dismissed this contention, ruling that "there is nothing suspicious about an owner receiving money from his business; indeed, that would seem to be the regular course of business. The court fails to see how receipt of money by (David Lin) from the business that (he) owned would indicate that the source of the money was tainted." Plasman continued: "The government has failed to show that the defendant had any knowledge about the criminal scheme alleged" (by the government)."

Plasman said the Attorney General’s Office is required to show adequate evidence to prove a defendant’s involvement in criminal activity. "It has not done so, as the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing is insufficient to warrant a finding of good cause to hold defendant for trial," Plasman said.

Some of the 11 others charged with defrauding the government of U.S. federal funds are awaiting hearings to see if the government can put forth adequate evidence to take the cases to trial, while other cases have already been scheduled for trial later this year.

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