Local trial of Rota officials starts on March 30

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THE bench trial of Rota officials accused of misconduct in office will start on March 30, 2020, CNMI chief prosecutor John Bradley said when asked for an update of the local trial.

“I am not aware of any change in the [local] trial date,” he said, “and I believe the federal trial [of the mayor] likewise is still on schedule.”

On Aug. 31, 2018, the CNMI Attorney General’s Office accused Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and seven of his resident directors of taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican Party campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

The officials were not arrested, but the local court issued a penal summons against them. They were initially charged with theft and misconduct in public office.

On Aug. 30, 2019, the AG’s office filed a second amended information against the officials, charging them each with misconduct in public office.

Misconduct in public office is punishable by up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of $1,000 or both.

Mayor Atalig’s co-defendants are Vanessa Charfauros, Dean Manglona, Josepha Manglona, Magdalena Mesngon, Eusebio Manglona, Dexter Apatang, and Dennis Mendiola.

Except for Charfauros, Apatang, and Mesngon, the rest of the defendants have pled not guilty to the charge.

Charfauros accepted a plea agreement with the government that required her to participate in the adult diversion program under the Adult Probation Office. The AG’s office has suspended the prosecution against Charfauros.

Apatang on Sept. 27, 2019 pled guilty to misconduct in public office and was sentenced by Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja to one year in prison, but all suspended. He was also placed on one-year probation.

Mesngon, for his part, settled the case by completing the adult diversion program.

A separate case has been filed in federal court against Mayor Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig.

They are accused of arranging CNMI-government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.

A superseding indictment charged them with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from a program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

Their jury trial in the District Court for the NMI is scheduled for March 10, 2020 at 10 a.m.

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