Japanese Investor Seeks Permission To Sell Cargo Ship Before CNMI Lawsuit Resolved

Yamamoto will continue to suffer loses if vessel deteriorates

By Ferdie De La Torre 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 15, 2016) – Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto asked the federal court yesterday to order the sale of cargo vessel M/V Luta to avoid its deterioration and excessive cost of keeping the vessel while his lawsuit is pending in court.

Yamamoto’s motion will be heard on Dec. 20 at 8:30am.

It has been over a month since M/V Luta was seized by authorities. Yamamoto, through George Lloyd Hasselback, said the vessel’s owner, Luta Mermaid LLC, has not made an appearance and has not contacted him.

Under these circumstances, Hasselback said, it is clear M/V Luta’s owner does not intend to have it released.

“Any further delay will result in additional, unnecessary and excessive arrest costs, as well as a decrease in the value of the vessel, which in turn, will result in a higher unpaid lien amount,” the lawyer said.

National Maritime Services Inc., the custodian of M/V Luta, asked the court on Tuesday to require Yamamoto to pay it $82,463.33 for custodian services from October to December 2016.

After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized M/V Luta and appointed National Maritime Services Inc. as custodian.

In Yamamoto’s motion for sale, Hasselback disclosed that he was contacted last Nov. 7 by attorney Joaquin Torres, who said he represented Fidel Mendiola Sr.

Hasselback said Torres asked for an extension of time to file a claim and respond to Yamamoto’s lawsuit because its desired attorney, William Fitzgerald, was off-island.

Hasselback said Fitzgerald contacted him last Nov. 29 for an extension so he could file an answer on behalf of “Fidel Mendiola,” but was unclear as to which “Fidel Mendiola” of which he spoke.

On that day, Hasselback said, he sought clarification about Fitzgerald’s intended client/clients, but has not heard back from him.

“Neither Mr. Torres, Mr. Fitzgerald, nor anyone else claiming to represent the owner, has indicated any intent to secure the release of the vessel from arrest,” Hasselback pointed out.

Hasselback said the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow the sale if the property is perishable, or liable to deteriorate, decay, or be injured by being detained.

He said sale is also allowed if the expense of keeping the property is excessive or disproportionate and if there is an unreasonable delay in securing release of property.

The lawyer said M/V Luta could fetch, at most, $750,000 at auction.

Hasselback pointed out that any additional delay will result in further devaluation of M/V Luta, higher arrest costs and less funds to satisfy the claims of Yamamoto and those seeking to intervene in the lawsuit.

Yamamoto is suing Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog and the owner/operators of M/V Luta. In his lawsuit, Yamamoto alleged that Hocog and co-defendants refused to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for the vessel.

Yamamoto is suing Hocog, M/V Luta, Luta Mermaid LLC, Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III, Fidel Mendiola Jr., and Robert Toelkes.

Two companies and crewmembers of M/V Luta also joined as intervenors in the lawsuit. Norton Lilly, an Alabama corporation, wants to collect from M/V Luta $131,801.10 in alleged unpaid goods and services.

M/V Luta’s captain and six other crewmembers have also intervened into Yamamoto’s lawsuit. They allegedly have not been paid their wages in the minimum sum of $183,647.77.

Long Consulting LLC, a limited liability company, has also claimed to have a maritime lien on M/V Luta after the vessel’s owners/operators allegedly failed to repay any part of their $300,000 loan or any interest.

It was former Department of Public Lands secretary John DelRosario who first filed a lawsuit against Hocog over the vessel. DelRosario is suing Hocog and Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson over $400,000 that was allegedly given to Luta Mermaid, a private company owned by Hocog’s relatives.

Saipan Tribune
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