Fraud, conspiracy, and accepting contributions from foreigners investigated
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into multiple possible violations of federal laws that involve Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, his family, and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, resulting in the execution of search warrants on several sites Thursday last week.
According to a copy of the search warrant executed on IPI’s office at the Marina Heights MH-I building in Puerto Rico, Saipan Tribune learned that the FBI looked for evidence of fraud by wire, radio, or television; attempt and conspiracy; money laundering; and making contributions or donations by foreign nationals.
In a statement to Saipan Tribune, Torres’ chief of staff, Angel Demapan, noted that the governor has cooperated with the ongoing investigation.
“He has always upheld the trust and responsibility of this office and believes that in due time, this investigation will find him clear of any further concern. The process toward clearing his name on this issue will take time, but it is a process that must be respected,” Demapan said.
“This is an important process and it is vital that the facts are provided and that the public’s concerns be assuaged in due time,” he added.
Demapan assured that Torres will continue “to serve the people of the CNMI as he has always done, with integrity and in pursuit of progress for our people.
“He asks for your continued understanding and patience as this process proceeds toward the eventual clearing of his name,” the statement added.
The FBI search warrant combed through a total of 22 possible items related to their investigation, including documents, records, and property that constitute violations; documents, records, and property relating to any transfers of funds or items of greater value than $1,000 from IPI or any of its parents, subsidiaries or affiliates to Torres, or brothers Vincent Torres, Victorino Torres, Joaquin Torres, Alfred Chi-Yam Yue, Ron L. Anderson, Legend Saipan (CNMI) LLC, Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, Torres Brothers LLC, or VR Company LLC.
The warrant was filed through the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Saipan, and the search warrant was issued on Nov. 6, 2019, a day before the FBI executed the searches. Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona signed the search warrants on Nov. 6, 2019, at 3:56pm.
The search warrant noted that the FBI would be searching the IPI accounting office at MH-I. The agency executed the search warrant on the IPI accounting office on Nov. 8, 2019.
Saipan Tribune learned last week that search warrants were also executed at Gov. Torres’ house and office, the office of Alfred Yue of Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, a consultant for IPI, Legend Realty Saipan, and the Torres Brothers’ law office.
Details of the search warrants came to light after IPI filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court a motion to stay the civil case lodge against IPI by seven construction employees for alleged injuries they suffered during accidents at the casino resort’s worksite in 2017.
A check by Saipan Tribune yesterday showed that the motion that IPI filed was unsealed. The search warrants that were filed as exhibits in the motion are sealed but were leaked on social media.
The motion to stay, filed by IPI general counsel Philip Tydingco, appears to cite the search as a reason to put the civil case on hold. Tydingco said that federal law mandates a stay of a civil case during a pending criminal action from the same occurrence the civil action is based upon.
Noting that the injuries of the plaintiffs—Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Quingchun Xu, and Xiyang Du—originated from the “casino project” or the construction of the casino in Garapan, Tydingco asserted that the law applies to the civil case since the law did not define the term “occurrence.”
“…The first amended complaint and the swirling investigation involving IPI each arises out of and relate to the casino project,” Tydingco said.
“Furthermore, a stay is appropriate as IPI should not have to choose between presenting a vigorous defense in this case and not waiving any rights associated with a potential governmental prosecution,” he noted.
The workers, all Chinese nationals, are suing Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., and IPI for alleged forced labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, forced labor in violation of the CNMI Anti-Trafficking Act, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractor.
The workers alleged, among other things, that they were forced to work long hours for below minimum wage under extremely dangerous conditions at the casino-resort worksite.