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AL firm sues M/V Luta, owners

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An Alabama corporation has come forward to ask the federal court to allow it to intervene in the lawsuit filed by Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto against Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog and the owner of cargo ship M/V Luta in order to collect $131,801.10 in alleged unpaid goods and services.

Norton Lilly International Inc., through counsel Bruce Berline, filed Monday a complaint of intervention for enforcement of maritime lien against M/V Luta.

Norton Lilly asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to issue a maritime warrant for the arrest of the cargo ship.

Norton Lilly requested the court to order the U.S. Marshal to seize the ship and held as security against any judgment to be entered.

Norton Lilly asked the court to issue a judgment in favor of the company and against M/V Luta for the $131,801.10 as well as for interest, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

The plaintiff asked the court to order the sale of M/V Luta and that proceeds of the sale be applied to satisfy the judgment.

Berline stated in the complaint that Luta Mermaid LLC president Abelina T. Mendiola entered into an agreement with Norton Lilly for it to supply necessities to M/V Luta.

Berline said that, from June 18, 2016 to Nov. 2, 2016, Norton Lilly was the agent of M/V Luta on Saipan and Guam, arranging for and/or shipping services for the vessel.

The lawyer said the services include stevedoring, time handling mooring, dockage, cargo/wharf storage, and terminal handling charges.

Berline said Norton Lilly also provided invoicing for documentation fees, customs fees, and others for the vessel.

Berline said the services supplied to M/V Luta by Norton Lilly pursuant to the agreement were necessary for the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission in that it allowed the ship to deliver cargo throughout the region.

Berline said invoices, spanning from July 19, 2016 to Nov. 2, 2016, for the delivery of such goods and services were issued to the vessel and/or her owners for the total amount of $131,801.10.

The lawyer said payment of the invoices is now due and owing, however, Norton Lilly has not received any amount.

Last week, the captain and six other crew members of M/V Luta have asked the federal court to allow them to intervene into Yamamoto’s lawsuit, because they allegedly have not been paid $183,647.77 in wages.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the captain’s and crew members’ motion to intervene. Manglona also directed the clerk of court to issue a warrant of maritime arrest against M/V Luta.

Last week, a limited liability company has claimed to have a maritime lien in M/V Luta after the vessel’s owners/operators allegedly failed to repay any part of their $300,000 loan or any interest.

Long Consulting LLC, through counsel Daniel T. Guidotti, moved the court to allow it to intervene in Yamamoto’s lawsuit.

On Thursday, Manglona also granted Long Consulting’s request to intervene in Yamamoto’s lawsuit. The judge also directed the clerk of court to issue a maritime arrest against the vessel.

Long Consulting’s complaint is suing M/V Luta for foreclosure of maritime lien. The company is also suing Luta Mermaid LLC, Hocog, Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III for breach of contract.

Luta Mermaid owns M/V Luta. Abelina Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III, and Deron Mendiola are members of the company. Abelina Mendiola is based on Rota, while Fidel Mendiola is a resident of Louisiana, and Deron Mendiola is a resident of Idaho, according to court papers.

Yamamoto is suing Hocog, M/V Luta, Luta Mermaid LLC, Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III, Fidel Mendiola Jr., and Robert Toelkes. Yamamoto is suing them for breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

Yamamoto alleged that Hocog and co-defendants refused to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for M/V Luta. He asked the court that the vessel be condemned and be sold to pay his demands, including interest and cost.

The U.S. Marshal Service seized M/V Luta last Oct. 25 and appointed the National Maritime Services Inc. as custodian of the vessel.

Last May, former Department of Public Lands secretary John DelRosario filed a taxpayer’s lawsuit against Hocog and Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson over the alleged adoption of a Rota Legislative Delegation Resolution 19-3 that purportedly authorized payment of $400,000 to Luta Mermaid, a private company owned by Hocog’s relatives.

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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