2 sue ex-landlord for allegedly overcharging them for electricity


IT&E’s sales manager Hans Mickelson and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board member Matthew Holley are suing the owner and landlord of their former apartment units in Gualo Rai for allegedly overcharging them for several years for electricity provided by CUC.

Mickelson and Holley, through counsel Tiberius Mocanu, are suing Frank Moniz and USPG for fraudulent misrepresentation and Consumer Protection Act violations.

Saipan Tribune tried to get comments from Moniz, but as of yesterday he was off-island.

Mickelson and Holley asked the Superior Court to find defendants to have committed fraudulent misrepresentation against each of them and for violations of the CNMI Consumer Protection Act.

They asked the court to hold defendants liable to pay them damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

Plaintiffs Mickelson and Holley did not specify the amount that they were allegedly overcharged. They also did not indicate the amount of damages they are demanding.

Holley, a lawyer, took oath as CUC board member in November 2017.

According to Mocanu in the complaint filed last week, Brabu Building located along Middle Road in Gualo Rai is owned and operated by USPG, which is doing business as Akari International Holdings.

Mocanu said Moniz is USPG’s principle shareholder and holds managerial status for USPG.

Brabu Building contains apartment units that are rented out to tenants.

From 2013 to 2018, Mickelson was a tenant of an apartment unit located in the building. From January 2009 to Sept. 15, 2015, Holley was a tenant of another apartment unit in the same building.

Mocanu said during both Mickelson’s and Holley’s respective tenancies, in addition to rent, Moniz and USPG charged them $0.445/kWh for electricity provided by CUC.

In order to determine the applicable rates, Mocanu said, CUC splits customer power usage into tiers, each tier with its own assigned rate and electricity usage threshold.

During their respective tenancies, both Mickelson and Holley allegedly exceeded a tier 1 rate, but never exceeded a tier 2 rate.

CUC publishes its applicable rates to the public, such as its “electric non-fuel rate or base rate” and its “fuel adjustment charge (FAC),” which was formerly known as the “levelized energy adjustment clause (LEAC).”

Moniz and USPG provided a monthly statement each month to their Brabu Building apartment tenants.

Mocanu said the defendants used their own sub-meters in order to determine each tenant’s kilowatt hour usage.

Mocanu said CUC officials have determined that defendants’ sub-meters are not compliant with CUC regulations.

He said in order to determine each plaintiffs’ monthly kilowatt usage, Moniz and USPG recorded the kilowatt hour amount on each plaintiff’s sub-meter at the beginning of the month and then recorded the kilowatt hour amount at the end of the month.

Mocanu said the difference between the kilowatt hour amount at the beginning of the month and the amount at the end of the month was considered each plaintiff’s monthly kilowatt usage for his apartment unit for that month.

He said defendants determined the amount owed for each plaintiff’s power usage in the monthly statement by multiplying the plaintiff’s monthly kilowatt usage for his apartment unit by the defendant’s $0.445/kWh rate.

Around 2016, Mickelson became suspicious of the 0.445/ kWh that USPG and Moniz charged him.

Mocanu said Mickelson spoke to Moniz at least three times concerning the $0.445/kWh charge.

On both occasions in July 2016 and July 2017, Moniz allegedly represented to Hans that the $0.445/kWh charge was the same rate CUC charged the Brabu Building apartments.

Moniz allegedly told Mickelson that he can move out of the building if he did not like the rate.

Mocanu said during Mickelson’s and Holley’s entire tenancy, CUC never charged an FAC/LEAC rate of $0.445/kWh and the sum of CUC’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 rates was never $0.445/kWh.

The lawyer said that, over the course of plaintiffs’ tenancies, USPG and Moniz profited from the difference between the flat $0.445/kWh rate that they charged them and the lower applicable CUC electrical rates at the time.

He said defendants never provided Michelson and Holley with a specific breakdown of their electricity bill in the monthly statement, despite requests.

Mocanu said defendants were effectively “reselling” power at a higher rate than provided to the general public by CUC.

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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