9th Circuit affirms Leyda Ada’s conviction, sentence

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed yesterday Leyda Ada’s conviction of perjury and the sentence of two years and three months of prison term imposed on her.

According to the Ninth Circuit decision issued by Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas and judges Consuelo M. Callahan and Morgan Christen, the evidence of the $4,000 in cash in Ada’s underwear drawer and her knowing access to bank accounts is sufficient to support the jury’s verdict of perjury.

The judges said Ada has not offered any persuasive policy or legal argument for holding that, as a matter of law, the cross-reference does not apply to her perjury.

A cross-reference in the U.S. Sentencing Guideline allows for an enhancement of sentence when the perjury furthers an underlying crime.

The Ninth Circuit judges said in light of the evidence of Ada’s awareness of the money laundering scheme, and her use of the proceeds (such as playing poker), she has not shown that U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona erred in applying the cross-reference to her perjury conviction.

The judges said although the jury acquitted Ada on the money laundering counts, the evidence supports a determination that she was aware of the scheme and benefitted from it.

Accordingly, the judges said, Ada has not shown that Manglona abused her discretion in attributing more than $1.5 million to her despite assertion that she did not know the scope of her husband’s illegal scheme.

The judges said Ada has not offered any persuasive reasons for a deviation from the general rule in her sentence.

On June 26, 2015, a federal jury reached a verdict, acquitting Ada of the charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, but finding her guilty as to the crime of perjury.

The jurors found Ada guilty of perjury when she signed “no” to the question in the “Criminal Justice Act form” if she has any cash on hand or money in savings or checking accounts.

In order to determine whether Ada could afford her own lawyer when she was arrested, she was required by the court to truthfully complete a financial affidavit.

In the paragraph entitled “Employment,” Ada also checked the “no” box indicating that she was not employed.

According to the indictment, Ada’s statements were false because she knew that she had $4,000 in cash at the time in her personal clothing drawer at her house and had access to and was an authorized user of at least two bank accounts.

On April 24, 2016, Manglona sentenced Ada to two years and three months imprisonment. Ada then appealed to the Ninth Circuit to reverse her conviction and sentence.

Manglona granted Ada’s request for release pending the outcome of her appeal.

In her appeal, Ada, through counsel, argued that the questions on the Criminal Justice Act Form 23 were fundamentally ambiguous and therefore her answers are not false.

Ada asserted that the cross-reference is not applicable to her situation and the evidence does not support its application.

She also argued that Manglona erred in not considering her request for a downward departure based on family ties.

On the Criminal Justice Act Form 23, the Ninth Circuit judges ruled that Ada has not shown that the questions on the form are fundamentally ambiguous.

The judges said Ada answered “no” to the question “Have you any cash on hand or money in savings or checking accounts?”

The judges said the evidence shows that police seized $4,000 in cash from Ada’s underwear drawer during a search of her home and that she had access to several bank accounts.

The judges said in the context of a person who has been arrested and presumably searched, Ada’s argument that “on hand” limited the question to what she had on her person is not reasonable.

On cross-reference issue, the judges ruled that Ada has not shown that the evidence in her case does not support the application of the cross-reference to her perjury.

On error issue, the judges said Ada has not shown that Manglona erred in attributing to her more than $1.5 million in laundered funds.

The judges said although the jury acquitted Ada on the money laundering counts, the evidence supports a determination that she was aware of the scheme and benefitted from it.

With respect to the family ties matter, the judges said Manglona acknowledged Ada’s request for a downward departure in the sentencing guideline and explained that such a departure is disfavored.

Ada used to be a sales representative for Midwest Medical Supply Co. Inc., a Missouri-based company that had supplied dialysis consumables and equipment to the Commonwealth Health Center.

Leyda Ada’s husband, Melvin Ada, is a former employee of the Commonwealth Health Center. He pleaded guilty to 56 charges for misappropriating and diverting CNMI Treasury checks made payable to Midwest Medical Supply totaling over $1.7 million.

In December 2015, Melvin Ada was slapped with a sentence of 12.7 years imprisonment.

In October 2017, the Ninth Circuit affirmed Melvin Ada’s sentence.

The Ninth Circuit, however, ruled that the District Court erred in awarding Midwest Medical Supply Company restitution in the amount of $132,565.

The Ninth Circuit vacated the restitution award and remanded to the District Court for its recalculation.

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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