Defense grills OPA investigator Hurst over job experience


Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, and Efraim Atalig’s court-appointed counsel, David G. Banes, walk from the main entrance of the U.S. Courthouse in Gualo Rai after the trial Monday afternoon. Also in the photo is the Ataligs’ private investigator, former FBI special agent Jeremy Wolfe. The trial of the Ataligs resumed yesterday, Tuesday. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

At the ongoing jury trial of Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, the defense counsel tried to poke holes in the credibility of Office of the Public Auditor investigator Travis Hurst on Monday.

After Hurst completed his testimony, the prosecution called to the witness stand Rota community service employee Mary O. Atalig, Guam-based Chelsea Ann F. Aquai, Commonwealth Arts Council executive director Parker Yobei, and Robert H. Hunter who is the secretary of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and also the senior policy adviser for the Office of the Governor.

Aquiai testified through video teleconference from Guam. She said she was in charge of the participants’ registry for Haya Foundation’s 3rd Amot Conference in Guam in 2018.

The trial resumed yesterday at the U.S. Courthouse in Gualo Rai.

Steven P. Pixley and David G. Banes were the court-appointed counsel for Efraim Atalig and Evelyn Atalig, respectively.

In his cross-examination of Hurst, Banes questioned data on Hurst’s job application to the Department of Public Safety, the Office of the Attorney General Investigative Unit, and Office of the Public Auditor. Banes pointed out that Hurst wrote in his résumé that he served as a reserved police officer from 2001 to 2010. He said it was actually from 2007 to 2010, or for only three years, that before that he served as a “police explorer,” a career-oriented program that gives young adults the opportunity to experience a career in law enforcement.

Hurst disagreed with Banes that he was overstating his work experience to get the jobs with DPS, OAG, and OPA.

Hurst testified how an anonymous tip to OPA about a big delegation from Rota going on a trip in Guam for a political rally started the investigation that led to the indictment of the Ataligs. Hurst testified about the trips that the Ataligs made, how much they received in per diems, and the true purpose of such trips, among other things.

In a related development, the U.S. Marshal Service served the court’s subpoenas last Aug. 4 that commanded 21 Rota residents to appear in court for the trial. Efraim Atalig requested the subpoenas.

Subpoenaed are Dean Manglona, Esther A. Yatar, Concepcion San Nicolas Ulloa, Mary Elizabeth P. San Nicolas, David M. Santos, Bert Ogo, Magdalena San Nicolas Mesngon, Thomas D. Mendiola, Sandra M. Masga, and Glenn L. Maratita.

Also subpoenaed are Sharon A. Manglona, Josepha Manglona, Joaquina King, Joseph S. Inos, Joel Hocog, George O. Hocog, Aubry Hocog, Rita M. Garces, Noel M. Calvo, Vanessa L.G. Charfauros, and Valeria Q. Apatang.

The Ataligs are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, and theft from program receiving federal funds. Both are also charged separately with false statement.

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

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