Lawyer: FBI seized over 50 boxes of documents from IPI

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THE Federal Bureau of Investigation seized more than 50 boxes of paper records from Imperial Pacific International offices after executing a search warrant on Nov. 7, 2019, IPI general counsel Joey San Nicolas told the federal court.

“Because of the broad nature of the warrant that they were operating under and the general nature of the receipts that the FBI issued to IPI after the seizure, precisely what records were seized remains unclear to IPI,” he added.

Despite requests from IPI, he added, “the United States…refuses to return the seized paper records to IPI.”

San Nicolas has filed a declaration in court in support of the IPI opposition to a motion for sanctions filed by seven workers against the casino operator.

The workers — Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan — are alleging that they were victims of a forced labor and human trafficking scheme while employed by MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI), the contractor and subcontractor of IPI.

IPI has denied their allegations.

The seven workers, through attorneys Aaron Halegua and Bruce Berline, have asked the federal court to issue an order directing IPI to produce records the plaintiffs requested.

In their recent motion, the seven workers asked the court to sanction IPI for failing to produce discovery, which the court has previously ordered.

IPI has opposed the plaintiffs’ request for sanctions.

In his declaration filed in the US District Court for the NMI on Wednesday, San Nicolas said U.S. law enforcement officials conducted a raid at the IPI central offices in Puerto Rico in Nov. 2019 and seized almost all of the then existing 160 central office data storage devices: Nine all-in-ones, 92 mini-CPUS, 21 laptops, 34 computer hard drives, a USB drive, two external hard drives, and a thumb drive.

“The FBI did not return the devices to IPI until Jan. 23, 2020,” San Nicolas said.

“When these data storage devices were returned to IPI they were returned in a jumble, many of them unidentifiable as to their original source without a time-consuming data analysis being performed by a competent IT professional,” San Nicolas added.

San Nicolas also said the raid and seizure of the devices were apparently performed as part of a still pending federal law enforcement investigation, “the overall scope of which IPI is not aware.”

He said because of the potential for the seized devices and the data which they stored being used in a federal investigation and possible prosecution, and the attendant chain of custody concerns, IPI has not been able to simply put the devices back to work or download all of data onto a central server.

Nor does the manner in which the devices were used lead to easy analysis, he added.

“For example, none of the seized mini-CPUs were assigned to a particular employee. Instead, they were set up in a pool within the IPI central office and were made available to employees on a first come, first-served basis, with the employees logging in using an employee number, not a name, and then using the CPU for the day or perhaps only for a few minutes, depending on need. The data on the CPUs are currently being analyzed, but our understanding is that some of IPI CPUs have a user list exceeding 30 current or former IPI employee numbers. And each of these Mini-CPUs had a 1 terabyte memory capacity. Our preliminary analysis indicates that the 160 devices hold a colossal amount of data, precisely how much is as yet unknown. Precisely what types of information these data [comprise] and how much of them are potentially relevant to this lawsuit is not yet clear,” San Nicolas said.

Besides San Nicolas, attorneys Kelly Butcher, Sean E. Frink, and Catherine J. Cachero also represent IPI in the litigation.

The jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2021 at 10 a.m.

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