CNMI: Ex-Finance Chief Arrested For Corruption

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Former Rota mayor yet to be served arrest warrant

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 13, 2015) – Former Rota Finance resident director StaceyAnn Manglona Atalig was also arrested by members of the CNMI Public Corruption and White Collar Crimes Task Force, but as of yesterday it has yet to serve an arrest warrant on former Rota mayor Melchor A. Mendiola on corruption charges.

According to court records, the 45-year-old Atalig was served with an arrest warrant in As Lito on Thursday at 12:08pm for theft, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and misuse of government property.

Aside from StaceyAnn Atalig, also taken to court during Friday’s bail hearing were her co-defendants: Tina Manglona Atalig, 46; and Alfred Maratita Apatang, 41.

Rowena Barcinas, 43, and her husband, Andrew Barcinas, 44, were also taken to court for bail hearings on Friday on separate corruption charges.

Saipan Tribune learned that Rowena Barcinas is a Rota Procurement officer, while Andrew Barcinas is a retired police officer. Tina Atalig is former secretary of then-mayor Mendiola, while Apatang is the former field supervisor of then-mayor Mendiola.

At the hearing, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho inquired as to the status of the arrest warrant for Mendiola.

Assistant attorney general Emily Cohen excused herself for a few minutes to make a call and later informed the court that the arrest warrant has not been served yet on the former mayor.

Mendiola is reportedly in the U.S. mainland.

StaceyAnn Atalig, Mendiola, Tina Atalig, and Apatang face the same charges.

Mrs. Barcinas was arrested for theft by unlawful taking or disposition, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and removal of government property.

Mr. Barcinas was arrested for receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition.

Camacho retained the $5,000 cash bail the court earlier imposed on all defendants, except for Rowena Barcinas whose bail is $10,000 cash because of several charges filed against her.

At a hearing later that afternoon, Camacho granted the request of StaceyAnn Atalig to modify the bail by allowing her to post $500 cash and $4,500 unsecured bond.

Camacho found StaceyAnn Atalig’s husband as a suitable third-party custodian.

Camacho appointed assistant public defender Mathew Meyer as counsel for Andrew Barcinas and StaceyAnn Atalig. Private counsels will be appointed for Tina Atalig, Apatang, and Rowena Barcinas.

Meyer recommended 10 percent of the $5,000 bail for Andrew Barcinas, considering that his client is a former police officer and that the charges are non-violent.

Cohen opposed, saying it is a betrayal of public trust and if the court allows modification, it should be a higher percentage.

Camacho maintained the $5,000 cash bail for Andrew Barcinas.

Camacho said if all the defendants post bail, they can travel to Rota, but cannot leave the CNMI.

Preliminary hearing for Tina Atalig and Apatang will be on April 20 at 9am. Preliminary hearing for the Barcinas couple will be on April 17 at 9am.

The defendants, except StaceyAnn Atalig, were all arrested on Rota on Thursday morning.

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued the arrest warrants.

Department of Public Safety acting spokesman Jason Tarkong said DPS participated and aided the Office of the Public Auditor with its investigative activities and in the execution of the arrest warrants.

OPA-Task Force officer JB K. Cepeda stated in his report that they initiated the investigation after receiving last February a letter from Rota Mayor Efrain M. Atalig, requesting assistance to investigate former mayor Mendiola’s "questionable transactions."

Cepeda said Mayor Atalig apparently discovered that government properties such as computer laptops, folding tables, typewriter, and other items were unaccounted for or missing.

OPA investigators later seized government items such as nine tables at Mendiola’s residence in Sinapalo; a laptop, an electric typewriter, and a box of government documents at the residence of Mendiola’s then-secretary Tina Atalig.

Investigators also recovered a laptop at the house of Apatang; one laptop at a house of Tina Atalig’s former staff; and a laptop from the husband of StaceyAnn Atalig at the Commonwealth Health Center on Saipan.

Investigators also towed a government-owned green Jeep Cherokee from the residence of the Barcinas couple last February.

Mendiola allegedly admitted to investigators that the nine tables were purchased using government funds and that he brought the tables valued at $1,590 to his house.

With respect to the charges against the Barcinas couple, OPA Task Force officer Melissa Bauleong stated in her report that their investigation started after a complaint was filed through the OPA website last Jan. 27 about three Rota government vehicles that were parked at the Department of Public Works lot in Sinapalo, Rota, that later went missing.

Bauleong said their investigation was launched for the purpose of verifying alleged illegal activities or transactions with respect to the "surveying" of any government vehicles through illegal and fraudulent means.

Bauleong said investigators learned that Rowena Barcinas, as Rota Procurement officer, allegedly used her position to manipulate the system into "surveying" several government vehicles.

One of the several vehicles was the government’s green Jeep Cherokee. Andrew Barcinas allegedly asked someone to fix the vehicle and then brought it to his house.

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