Crew Of Impounded CNMI Vessel Seeks $200,000 In Unpaid Wages

Court asked to auction off M/V Luta to pay salaries, investor money

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 4, 2017) – The former captain and six crewmembers of cargo ship M/V Luta are now demanding from the vessel’s owner $199,147.77 in unpaid wages.

The ex-crewmembers amended their complaint yesterday to change the demand for payment of wages from $183,647.77 to $199,147.77.

The amended complaint only changed the demand for wages of ship captain Michael Brochon to $39,400 and not $36,400, and for the wages of chief engineer Henry Heister to $46,500 and not $34,000 as earlier sought.

The amounts being sought by the other crewmembers remained the same. Chief mate Michael Harkreader asked for $30,102; 2nd engineer Roy Allen, $7,500; chief engineer John Hart, $17,875; wiper Joaquin Castro, $55,874; and able-bodied seaman Marlon Bambalan, $1,896.77.

Brochon and the crewmembers also asked the court yesterday that M/V Luta be auctioned by Jan. 31, 2017, at a minimum of $550,000.

Brochon and his co-plaintiffs, through counsel David G. Banes, are suing M/V Luta and its owner Luta Mermaid LLC, for foreclosure, violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, breach of contract, failure to pay minimum wage, unjust enrichment, breach of maritime contract, quantum merit, violation of Seaman’s Protection Act, and unlawful engagement.

They moved to intervene in Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto’s lawsuit.

The plaintiffs asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to hold Luta Mermaid LLC liable to pay them at least $199,147.77 for back due wages, plus damages, interest, costs, penalties, and attorney’s fees.

According to Banes in the complaint, the crew had a contract with Luta Mermaid LLC to work as crewmen on the M/V Luta.

Banes said the actual pay each plaintiff received was much lower than stipulated in the contracts.

Banes said that beginning on April 5, 2016, the crewmembers made demands on Luta Mermaid for their full wages and back pay, but the company refused their demands.

Two other companies intervened into Yamamoto’s lawsuit to collect payment of services.

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

Yamamoto is suing them for breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

Yamamoto alleged that Hocog and co-defendants refused to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for M/V Luta. He asked the court that the vessel be condemned and be sold to pay his demands, including interest and cost.

With the filing of the lawsuit, the U.S. Marshal Service seized M/V Luta last Oct. 25 and appointed the National Maritime Services Inc. as custodian of the vessel.

Saipan Tribune
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