FBI makes an arrest in bldg. search

Search conducted over recent death of worker at construction site, allegations of harboring out-of-status individuals

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has disclosed that Thursday’s search at a Garapan building was against two companies and that it also made an arrest in response to the recent death of a worker at the construction site of Imperial Pacific Resort.

FBI spokesperson Michele Ernst said on Saturday that their investigation is related to allegations of a federal violation of the workplace visa system, including reports the company was systematically harboring individuals who are out-of-status and in violation of federal statutes.

Ernst did not provide other details.

When asked what company she was referring to, Ernst said yesterday that the search warrant was against MCC International and Belinda Overseas.

Ernst said she is not able to provide further comments.

“Court records will have to speak for themselves,” she said, adding that it is inappropriate for her to comment beyond the official statement since this is an ongoing investigation.

There was no scheduled initial appearance hearing in the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday and last Saturday. It is not clear if there will be such a hearing in federal court today, Monday, about the arrested person.

Saipan Tribune learned that the FBI searched Thursday the second floor of Kase II Building, a two-story commercial building in Garapan.

Imperial Pacific declined to comment on the matter, aside from clarifying that: “The FBI visit was for the contractor’s office but not IPI construction department.”

Kase II Building is owned by a Japanese’s company, Marianas Seaside Development Corp.

Last March 22, a 43-year-old Chinese national died after falling 24 feet to the ground from a scaffold at the construction site of the multi-million dollar Imperial Pacific Resort project.

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chair Mark A. Brown expressed serious concern for the accident and stated that they have again advised their subcontractors to exercise safety first at the construction site.

Last December, then-U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez requested the U.S. District Court for the NMI to issue an ex parte warrant to inspect the Imperial Pacific Resort construction project after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration tried, but was denied entry, to inspect the site to investigate the alleged death of a worker and other accidents.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted Perez’s request, but MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., which operates a construction contracting business at the project, initially objected and filed an emergency motion to quash the warrant. MCC later withdrew its motion, prompting OSHA personnel to inspect the site.

MCC International reported to OSHA that last Dec. 6, an onsite worker had a heart attack and died on Dec. 4, 2016.

Assistant U.S. attorney James Benedetto, counsel for Perez, stated that an OSHA compliance safety and health officer went to the site last Dec. 6 to inquire about the death and he observed what appeared to be workers exposed to fall hazards such as climbing from one level of the scaffolding to another without being continuously protected from a fall hazard.

It is not clear yet what role Belinda Overseas plays with the casino project.

Imperial Pacific has yet to comment about Belinda Overseas.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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