Former CNMI Attorney General’s ‘Bodyguards’ Arrested

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Police, port officers charged with conspiracy, obstructing justice

By Ferdie De La Torre and Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 7, 2013) – The Commonwealth Ports Authority's (CPA) police chief, a police captain, and a ports police officer were arrested last night for allegedly helping shield former Northern Marianas attorney general and now fugitive Edward T. Buckingham from being served a penal summons in August last year.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero confirmed last night that Police Capt. Jermaine W. Nekaifes, CPA's police chief Jordan Kosam, and CPA's Capt. Juan Rebuenog were arrested during a joint operation by DPS and Office of the Public Auditor. Nekaifas was former governor Benigno R. Fitial's police detail.

Deleon Guerrero said that Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman, who issued the arrest warrant, set a $25,000 cash bail for each defendant.

Deleon Guerrero said that Nekaifes was arrested at DPS in Susupe, while Kosam and Rebuenog were arrested at their respective homes on Capital Hill and Kagman.

Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) personnel reportedly served the arrest warrants.

Deleon Guerrero said that DPS and OPA are going to issue a statement today, Thursday, about the case.

Sources said the three were arrested on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for helping Buckingham flee Saipan.

Saipan Tribune sources said that DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro and many others are expected to be arrested as well for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, among other things.

Deleon Guerrero refused to comment if Ogumoro would also be arrested. He disclosed that Ogumoro left for Canada Tuesday morning for an official trip.

The Office of Public Auditor filed criminal charges against Buckingham in connection with an alleged violation of election laws and illegal awards of a sole-source contract, among others.

An FBI special agent served Buckingham with the penal summons at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport shortly before he and his wife left Saipan on a 6am Delta Air Lines flight to Narita, Japan on Aug. 4, 2012.

Sources said that at least one police officer who received "direct instruction from Fitial" to stay away from serving the penal summons to Buckingham may turn "state witness."

Lawmakers-including House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero-that supported the impeachment of Fitial welcomed this latest development.

"All of us saw from the news coverage at the airport that morning the ones involved. Everybody knew it's improper to prevent the serving of a penal summons. I am pleased that our law enforcement officers are being held accountable for their actions. I believe that's what's happening now," Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune last night when asked for comment.

He reiterated that these police officers "did not do it on their own."

The impeachment resolution against Fitial included those in connection with the use of police and ports police officers to escort and shield Buckingham in August 2012

"I believe they were instructed to do that. I hope that eventually, the person who gave them the instruction will also be held accountable," the speaker added.

During the impeachment hearings last year, Rebuenog, one of the law enforcers who escorted Buckingham and his wife Pam at the airport, told the Impeachment Committee that he was told by DPS deputy commissioner Ogumoro that Buckingham "does not want to be bothered by the media" so he was given escorts.

Ogumoro and other law enforcement officers invoked their Fifth Amendment right during the impeachment hearings.

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