CNMI Law Enforcement Implicated In Drug Bust

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Former CNMI police captain identified among 10 suspects

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Aug. 23, 2012) – Federal and local law enforcement agencies executed search warrants and arrested yesterday 10 persons, including former police captain Delbert R. Sablan as well as active and former law enforcers, for alleged distribution of methamphetamine or "ice" and possession of a firearm by a felon charges.

Nine defendants were brought to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) yesterday afternoon for their initial court appearance hearing.

Aside from Sablan, the other defendants are former Corrections officer Jesse Reyes Babauta, former Commonwealth probation officer Robin Norita Sablan, Robin Sablan's wife Ofelia Pua Sablan, Division of Youth Services counselor Leonard Urumelog Ordonez, Corrections officer Mariano Q. Falig Jr., Customs officer Perry M. Iguel, Vicente Aldan Sablan, and Xiang Rong Li.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in its media statement identified only nine defendants. A source said one arrested suspect was still off-island as of yesterday.

The nine defendants appeared with their court-appointed counsels. Judge Ramona V. Manglona remanded the defendants into the custody of the U.S. Marshal. Detention and preliminary hearings were also set.

Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, U.S. attorney for the Districts of Guam and the NMI, said the arrests of 10 suspects came about after a two-year long Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation by federal and local authorities.

"We commend the hard work and effort of federal and local law enforcement-DEA, CNMI DPS, and CNMI Customs-agents, in this OCDETF investigation as this was a collaborative and cooperative effort by all agencies involved to protect our community against drug trafficking," Limtiaco said.

Acting DPS commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro said DPS will continue to work cooperatively with federal authorities in enforcing laws and protecting the community.

Former police captain Delbert Sablan was arrested for one count of possession of a firearm by a felon after he and Babauta allegedly sold to a "confidential source" a rifle in exchange for $600.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force officer Diwain A. Stephen stated in his affidavit that, on March 2, 2011 investigators with the DEA, Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and Drug Enforcement Task Force met with the confidential source at a location to prepare a controlled purchase of a firearm from Delbert Sablan and Babauta.

Stephen said, a day before, the confidential source disclosed that Babauta along with Delbert Sablan was prepared to sell the confidential source a carbine rifle and ammunition.

Stephen said that, on March 2, 2011 the confidential source managed to buy a Winchester .30 caliber rifle, magazines, and ammunition from Delbert Sablan and Babauta for $600.

The alleged transaction allegedly happened at Delbert Sablan's house.

Assistant U.S. attorney Clyde Lemons Jr. clarified to the court that Delbert Sablan was not a participant in the drug transaction.

Delbert Sablan used to be chief of the Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Criminal Investigation Bureau. In October 2001, a federal jury convicted him of one count of theft concerning federal money.

In February 2002, then U.S. District Court Chief Judge Alex R. Munson imposed a 27-month jail term on Delbert Sablan. The judge also required the defendant to pay $8,491 in restitution to DPS and a $15,000 fine.

Delbert Sablan was found guilty of stealing thousands of dollars in confidential informant funds during his term as chief of DPS Criminal Investigation Bureau.

With respect to Babauta, he was arrested on three counts of distribution of methamphetamine, one count of distribution of methamphetamine in or near schools or colleges, and one count of using or carrying a firearm in commission of a drug trafficking crime.

A confidential source allegedly managed to purchase "ice" from Babauta four times in 2011. The defendant also allegedly sold to the confidential source a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and four rounds of ammunition.

Defendants Robin Sablan, Ofelia Sablan, and Ordonez were arrested on one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The defendants allegedly conspired to sell less than a gram of "ice" to a confidential source in the parking lot of the Commonwealth Health Center on March 24, 2011.

Falig and Vicente Sablan, also known as "Ben Seven," were arrested for one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In addition, Falig was held for one count of using or carrying a firearm in commission of a drug trafficking crime.

Falig and Vicente Sablan allegedly conspired to sell 1.22 grams of "ice" worth $800 to a confidential source at Falig's residence in Tanapag on March 22, 2011.

Falig allegedly used his Department of Corrections-issued Smith & Wesson 9mm millimeter semi-automatic handgun as collateral to the confidential source before the "ice" was handed over.

Iguel was arrested on two counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

A confidential source allegedly purchased from Iguel $200 and $400 worth of "ice" on Dec. 13, 2011 and Jan. 10, 2012.

Li was arrested for four counts of distribution of methamphetamine for allegedly selling in excess of five grams of "ice" to a confidential source.

The confidential source allegedly managed to buy $900 worth of two grams of "ice" on May 19, 2011; $1,300 worth of three grams of "ice" on June 14, 2011; $1,160 worth of two grams of "ice" on July 19, 2011; and $400 worth of .68 grams of "ice" on Aug. 4, 2011.

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