U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has denied Leyda I. Ada’s motion to set aside her perjury conviction.
Manglona made the decision on Thursday after reviewing the motions, briefs, evidence, having presided over the trial, and having heard all arguments.
In a written order, Manglona said the jury had sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that Ada knew she had the cash in both the underwear drawer and money in the Blaze ‘N’ Entertainment checking account, and that she lied when she answered that she did not.
“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of perjury—here that Ada believed her sworn statement was false—beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.
The judge said the $4,000 cash in the underwear drawer could have been Ada’s, and her treatment of the Blaze ‘N’ Entertainment account as a personal account both suggested that she lied on CJA Form 23.
CJA Form 23 refers to a financial affidavit that a criminal defendant must complete to avail of a free court-appointed attorney, showing that she lacks the ability to pay.
Manglona said the U.S. government presented evidence that Ada knew she had “cash on hand” in the form of $4,000 discovered in an underwear drawer at her home.
Manglona said Ada argues that the U.S. government failed to show that the cash found in the underwear drawer belonged to her, but the photographs seem to show women’s underwear, and the jury could have rationally concluded that the cash and underwear belonged to Ada.
“Accordingly, when Ada answered that she did not have any cash on hand, the jury could have determined that she perjured herself,” the judge pointed out.
Additionally, Manglona said, the U.S. government presented evidence to show that Ada had “money in savings or checking accounts.”
The U.S. government, she said, admitted two checks, one for $5,000 and another for $2,500, written out to Ada from her mother that were deposited into a Blaze ‘N’ Entertainment checking account less than two months prior to her arrest.
The prosecution, Manglona said, also admitted a notebook was found during the search of Ada’s home that contained a notation that proceeds from the sale of her personal property would be deposited into the “Blazen” account.
Attorney Mark Hanson argued the motion as court-appointed counsel for Ada. Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe opposed on behalf of the U.S. government.
Last June 26, a federal jury acquitted Ada of the charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering but found her guilty of perjury.
Perjury has a maximum prison term of five years. Ada will be sentenced on Nov. 13, 2015.
The 12 jurors found Ada guilty of perjury when she signed “no” to the question in a form if she has any cash on hand or money in savings or checking accounts.
In order to determine whether Ada could afford her own lawyer when she was arrested, she was required by the court to truthfully complete a financial affidavit.
In the paragraph titled “Employment,” Ada also checked the “no” box indicating she was not employed.
According to the indictment, Ada’s statements were false because she knew that she had $4,000 in cash at the time in her personal clothing drawer at her house and had access to at least two bank accounts.
Backe asserted that there was more than enough evidence for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ada was guilty of perjury. He said there was ample evidence produced at trial for the jury to conclude that Ada’s checking of the “no” box was another step in her and her husband’s elaborate plan to make it appear they were just a family of modest means, and therefore incapable of having profited from or knowing about the $2 million stolen from the Commonwealth Health Center.
Ada used to be a sales representative for Midwest Medical Supply Co. Inc., a Missouri-based company that had supplied dialysis consumables and equipment to the Commonwealth Health Center.
Ada’s husband, Melvin Ada, is a former employee of the Commonwealth Health Center. He pleaded guilty to 56 charges for misappropriating and diverting CNMI Treasury checks made payable to a medical supplier company totaling over $1.7 million. He has yet to be sentenced.