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4 arrested over seizure of 3 live green sea turtles

1 is a DFW conservation officer
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Four men were allegedly caught at a restricted area within the Seaport compound in Lower Base in possession of three live endangered green sea turtles, but a Division of Fish and Wildlife conservation officer who responded to the scene instead took one turtle and allowed the group to leave.

DFW conservation officers served over the weekend an arrest warrant to conservation officer Alvin Fitial, 51, and the three other suspects—Anthony Pangelinan, 34, Jeffrey Iguel Teigita, 37, and Vicente Aldan Sablan, 46.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho issued the arrest warrant against the four defendants on charges of possession of an endangered/threatened species.

At a hearing yesterday, Camacho imposed $10,000 cash bail each on all four defendants.

Preliminary hearing will be on April 27 at 9am.

Assistant public defender Michael Sato was appointed as counsel for Sablan. The court will appoint private lawyers for the other defendants. Assistant attorney general Chester Hinds appeared for the government.

DPW Conservation Inspector Erwin T. Flores stated in his report that on Feb. 2, 2016, while Commonwealth Ports Authority Police Sgt. Vincent Billy was on duty at the Saipan Seaport, he witnessed a group of fishermen within a restricted area between 8:30pm to 9pm.

Billy investigated and identified the fishermen as Sablan, Teigita, Pangelinan, and Richard Anthony Tenorio. Billy observed the four to have just returned from fishing.

Billy heard a flapping sound coming from the bed-liner of a pick-up truck. Upon investigation, Billy saw three live green sea turtles concealed under a Styrofoam container.

Billy observed that a rope was used to restrain the turtles from moving.

Billy instructed the four not to leave as he then notified the Department of Public Safety, where he was given the telephone number of DFW.

Billy spoke with Fitial about the incident and that the conservation officer subsequently arrived at the scene.

Flores said during his interview with Tenorio last April 10, Tenorio revealed that Fitial is Teigita’s uncle.

Tenorio was not among those arrested.

Tenorio said when Fitial arrived at the scene, Teigita greeted and showed respect to Fitial.

Tenorio said Teigita and Fitial then talked.

After talking, Teigita instructed Tenorio to transfer one turtle from the truck to the DFW vehicle operated by Fitial.

Tenorio said they then departed the Seaport and proceeded to a store in San Antonio, where they sold the fish they caught.

Court documents did not indicate what the defendants did to the three turtles.

According to Flores, Tenorio disclosed that they spotted and caught the three turtles in the channel by the seaport.

After catching 70 lbs of fish, Tenorio said they started to head back to land by using a boat belonging to Sablan.

Tenorio said while they were at the Seaport Compound, Billy came and questioned them regarding their presence in the restricted area and possession of turtles.

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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