All but one of Russian man’s claims vs FEMA is dismissed

The federal court has dismissed all claims except one in a lawsuit filed by a Russian national against the Federal Emergency Management Agency for allegedly finding him ineligible for some or all of the FEMA funds provided after Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan in 2015.

In an order last week, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona found that Milan F. Fargo has stated a claim on which relief may be granted, but only as to FEMA’s determination that he was ineligible for disaster assistance after Typhoon Soudelor.

Manglona said Fargo has alleged a plausible excuse for failing to lodge an administrative appeal within the agency’s time frame.

The judge said if the FEMA assistance had been in the form of a loan, the excuse would be implausible, because no doubt he would have been under duty to inform the agency of a change of address until the loan was fully repaid.

Manglona said Fargo could not know about the audit and had no reason to be on the lookout for a recoupment letter from FEMA.

Manglona said Fargo had no claim pending with FEMA for which he was awaiting a determination.

“The court is not making a finding that Fargo’s neglect was in fact excusable,” said the judge, adding that FEMA may choose to plead exhaustion as an affirmative defense and may be able to show that Fargo’s failure to exhaust should not be excused.

Manglona said Fargo’s all other claims—for failing to respond to requests for medical assistance, for using the Aging Center as a shelter, for problems with email, and for any assistance relating to Super Typhoon Yutu—are dismissed with prejudice.

The judge ruled that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear such claims.

Dismiss with prejudice means Fargo may not renew such claims in any amended pleadings.

Manglona struck plaintiff’s request for punitive damages.

Fargo may not add any new claims without first making a motion for the court’s permission to add them and obtaining the court’s permission to do so.

Manglona said although she, with some effort, has pulled together Fargo’s one viable claim from the many pleadings and exhibits, they are not “short and plain statement” of his entitlement to relief, as required by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so as to put FEMA on notice of the claim and allow the agency to answer or otherwise respond appropriately.

Therefore, the judge said, Fargo is ordered to file a second amended complaint limited to his claim on FEMA’s eligibility determination for the Typhoon Soudelor assistance.

Manglona said the second amended complaint and any exhibits (letters, emails, and other documents) that Fargo attaches to it will be the only complaint and exhibits that are served on FEMA.

Fargo was given until July 31 to file his second amended complaint and exhibits.

Manglona granted Fargo’s application to proceed in forma pauperis, which is a permission given by a court to an indigent to initiate a court action without having to pay for court fees or costs due to his or her lack of money.

Fargo, in a pro se complaint or without a lawyer, said the action of FEMA is illegal when in its letter dated Nov. 13, 2017 told him that his debt is now final.

The letter says FEMA provided Fargo funds as a result of his application for disaster assistance. FEMA said it conducts audits of disaster assistance payments.

Fargo said FEMA told him that his debt is final because he did not file an appeal within 60 days upon receiving the notice of debt letter.

He said FEMA told him that if he does not take action within 30 days from the date of the Nov. 2017 letter, FEMA will submit his debt to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and that FEMA and Treasury will continue to add administrative charges, interest, and penalties to his unpaid debt until it is paid in full.

Fargo said in the eyes of FEMA, he did not take action starting on Nov. 13, 2017.

He said as a result of this deliberate FEMA interpretation, the original $2,990 he got, already has grown up to $4,217.

He said FEMA even warned him that if he fails to pay the debt, he could jeopardize future disaster assistance.

Fargo said that Super Typhoon Yutu last Oct. 25, affected his health.

He said his application for emergency assistance for damage after Yutu is very likely be denied by FEMA.

According to court records, the 66-year-old Fargo’s original name is Nassir Nazarovich Kourbanov.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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