Not sure yet when he would be cleared to return
Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig just had a quadruple bypass surgery in the Philippines and it is not clear yet as to when he is coming back to the CNMI, according to the lawyer of Atalig’s girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig.
Steven Pixley, counsel for Evelyn Atalig, said the Ataligs traveled to the Philippines last April 18.
Pixley said he was informed that Efraim Atalig underwent quadruple bypass surgery, an open-heart surgery that is done to improve the blood flow that feeds the heart.
Evelyn Atalig informed the court about Efraim Atalig’s surgery in her motion to postpone the jury trial in their case. The trial is currently set for June 4, 2019.
Pixley said that, based on his research, he understands that the recovery period following quadruple bypass surgery is typically six to 12 weeks.
The lawyer said pursuant to the court’s order granting Evelyn Atalig’s motion to travel to the Philippines with Efraim Atalig, she is required to return to Rota as “soon as the treatment for Efraim Atalig is completed and he is cleared to travel.”
Pixley said he spoke with Evelyn Atalig last Saturday and, based upon the conversation, it has not yet been determined when Efraim Atalig will be cleared for travel back to the CNMI.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona had granted last April 8 the mayor’s request to travel to the Philippines for medical treatment.
Manglona also granted Evelyn Atalig’s request to accompany Efraim Atalig to the Philippines.
Pixley said the additional time requested between the current trial date of June 4 and the new trial is necessary for him (Pixley) to prepare for trial.
Pixley said he requires more time beyond the June 4 trial date to review the voluminous discovery, investigate all the allegations, locate and interview witnesses, and prepare for trial.
The lawyer said the unanticipated serious medical issue weighs in favor of continuing the current trial setting.
The Ataligs have been 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 Ataligs allegedly arranged CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.
The U.S. government alleged that the primary purpose of these trips was not official business but personal travel or partisan political activity, for which the Ataligs fraudulently claimed per diem and travel reimbursement.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty.