Jury trial reset to Jan. 8, 2020
Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, hired last Wednesday a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent to serve as their private investigator in the corruption charges filed against them.
David G. Banes and Steven P. Pixley, counsels for Efraim Atalig and Evelyn Atalig, respectively, informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI during a motion hearing last Friday that they were able to hire former FBI special agent Jay Wolfe as their investigator.
Banes and Pixley disclosed the hiring of Wolfe in their request for the postponement of trial and pre-trial deadlines.
Banes said former Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services commissioner Claudio K. Norita, who was first hired as the Ataligs’ private investigator, could not continue with the investigation due to conflict of interest.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona approved postponing the trial o Jan. 8, 2020. The trial was previously set for Oct. 1, 2019.
Manglona noted the lack of a private investigator, and the defense counsel’s due diligence in looking for one.
Assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley appeared on behalf of the U.S. government at the hearing. The Ataligs appeared telephonically from Rota.
Banes and Pixley earlier disclosed that Norita had informed them that he had been advised by his attorney that he could no longer do outside work because of his employment by the CNMI government.
Norita asked to be let go from the case as his company, Trublu Resources, was recently appointed by the CNMI government to provide census services of housing units on island.
Banes and Pixley said that, because of this, they and their clients needed more time to find a new private investigator and allow the new private investigator to do the investigation, including interviewing potential witnesses.
They said the Ataligs jointly agreed to hire Norita as their private investigator last May 22, 2019.
Norita is a former commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
The charges against the Ataligs now involve at least eight trips taken by the Ataligs at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.
The Ataligs are being charged jointly with wire fraud, theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and federal funds theft. Each of them faces a separate charge of false statement.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty.