Former Coastal Resources Management official Benny K. Pangelinan has pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud in connection with his new involvement in an Internet scam.
Pangelinan, who is represented by attorney Steven Pixley, signed a plea agreement with the U.S. government and entered a guilty plea on Friday.
Wire fraud has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Pangelinan will be sentenced on Feb. 21, 2014.
When U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona asked him to explain why he did what he did, Pangelinan said he did not profit from the scheme and that he started demanding money from the victims for deposit as the people he was communicating with on the Internet were very convincing.
“I ran out of resources. I tried to secure more funds to satisfy the demand. I realized that it’s not the way it should be,” Pangelinan said.
Assistant U.S. attorney Garth R. Backe said that paramount to the U.S. government is to retrieve the victims’ money.
According to Backe in the information, Pangelinan transmitted or caused to be transmitted a total of $3,770 through wire transfers to Malaysia and Australia in 2011.
Backe said that Pangelinan participated in the scheme from Oct. 14, 2010, to Oct. 31, 2011, obtaining money and property by means of fraudulent pretenses and promises.
Pangelinan approached friends and family members, including three victims, and told them that he was going to receive large sums of money from off-island sources.
The defendant reportedly told the victims that he needed their help in getting the money to Saipan by paying for fees, taxes, or similar expenses associated with the electronic transfer of funds.
In January 2007, a federal jury found Pangelinan guilty of wire fraud charges for defrauding potential investors and for his involvement in an Internet scam. He was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $129,250 in restitution to five victims.
In September 2011, the U.S. Probation Office moved to revoke Pangelinan’s probation after finding out that he borrowed $21,450 from a couple and received over $11,000 from a family member, with promises to both that he will double their money.
In January 2012, the court placed Pangelinan in the custody of the U.S. Attorney General for hospitalization. The court had found the defendant in violation of the probation, but at the same time determined that there is cause to believe the defendant “is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect.”