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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Confessed drug user testifies vs ex-DOC officer Falig

A confessed meth user testified yesterday how he served as a drug courier for his second cousin, then-Department of Corrections officer Mariano Q. Falig Jr.

Vicente Aldan Sablan, also known as Ben Seven, admitted that he had been using meth since 1990 and that he last used the drug in August 2013. He agreed to testify for the U.S. government in the ongoing retrial of Falig, hoping that he will get a reduced sentence in his case.

Sablan completed his testimony yesterday. The last witness to testify for the government yesterday was a chemist. The trial will continue today, Friday, in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.

An indictment charged Sablan and Falig with conspiracy to distribute meth and distribution of meth. In addition, Falig was charged with using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime. The U.S. government later dismissed this count.

Sablan pleaded guilty as part of a deal with the U.S. government.
In his testimony, Sablan said that on March 22, 2011, Falig called him on the phone, asking him to come over to his house in Tanapag because there’s a large amount of money that he understands will be used to buy meth.

Sablan said he walked over to Falig’s house, then a neighbor came and gave him $700 to buy meth.

Saipan Tribune opted not to disclose the name of the neighbor for the meantime as the Drug Enforcement Administration used him as their confidential source.

According to DEA Task Force officer Diwain A. Stephen in his report, their confidential source gave Sablan $800 for a controlled purchase of meth from Falig.

Sablan said he drove over to the house of his cousin, Robin Sablan, who also lives in Tanapag. He said it was Robin who knew where to buy the drug.

He said he boarded Robin’s car and they proceeded to the apartment of their supplier in Lower Navy Hill. He said that after waiting for two to three hours, the supplier handed Robin three ziplock baggies that contained meth.

Sablan said the amount of drugs did not seem like it was worth $700.

On their way to Falig’s house, their car ran out of gas but they managed to get to the Shell Station in Puerto Rico. He said they did not have money for gas so they called Robert Quitugua, also known as Flying Man, who gave them money for gas in exchange for meth.

He said he, Robin, and Quitugua went to a beach and smoked some of the meth. He and Robin then proceeded to Falig’s house, where he handed the remaining “ice” to his neighbor (the confidential source).

As assistant U.S. attorney Ross Naughton was preparing to play a disc of an audiotape on the alleged purchase of meth, defense attorney Bruce Berline noticed that a video feed was showing on the monitors in front of the jurors. Berline quickly stood up and asked to stop the video.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona called for a short break, after which Berline asked for mistrial, saying the video was prejudicial to his client.

Naughton explained that the video that was unintentionally shown will be corroborated by the government’s witnesses anyway. He said the jurors should only be given instruction to disregard what they had seen in the monitors.

Manglona denied Berline’s motion for mistrial. She called the jurors back and instructed them to disregard what they saw in the monitors.
The audiotape was then played.

Sablan identified the voices in the audiotape as himself, Falig, Robin, and the neighbor.
When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom, Berline was preparing to cross-examine Sablan.
The retrial began on Monday.

In March 2013, Manglona declared a mistrial after Falig’s then counsel, Ramon K. Quichocho, disclosed shortly after the jury selection that he represents the prosecution’s key witness in a family court proceeding.

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