A former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent hired by Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, to serve as their private investigator on corruption charges filed against them, apparently needs more time to complete his investigation.
Attorneys David G. Banes and Steven P. Pixley, counsels for Efraim Atalig and Evelyn Atalig, respectively, informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI last Friday that former FBI special agent Jeremy Wolfe needs 30 more days—for a total of 60 days—to complete his investigation.
The trial is currently set to start on Jan. 8, 2020.
The Ataligs asked the court to postpone the trial by one month and reset the pre-trial conference and pre-trial deadlines accordingly.
Banes and Pixley said Wolfe is the only qualified and willing investigator that any defendant can use in the entire CNMI. They said the Ataligs cannot simply hire an alternative investigator.
Banes and Pixley said Wolfe has conducted substantial work including interviewing potential witnesses on Rota and Saipan, but still needs time to finish the investigation.
The lawyers said Wolfe was recently retained to work on another criminal matter that is time-sensitive and will have to allocate a substantial portion of his time in the next two months to this other criminal matter.
Wolfe also runs a small business that requires his personal attention.
The Ataligs hired Wolfe as their private investigator last September after former Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services commissioner Claudio K. Norita, who was first hired as their private investigator, could not continue with the investigation due to conflict of interest because of his employment by the CNMI government.
Norita asked to be relieved from the case as his company, Trublu Resources, was appointed by the CNMI government to provide census services of housing units on island.
Banes and Pixley said the Ataligs are also still trying to obtain information from the CNMI Department of Finance regarding deductions from Efraim Atalig’s paychecks for travel expenses.
The lawyers said it is possible that those deductions were made by Finance regarding a trip that is involved in this case and therefore are relevant to the defense.
They said defendants are still requesting from the U.S. government notes, audio, or video records, in electronic or written format, of the interviews of witnesses conducted by the FBI or the Office of the Public Auditor.
Banes also informed the court that he, as lead counsel for Efraim Atalig, was ill at the end of October 2019 and for the first half of November, and missed a significant amount of work.
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 faces a separate charge of false statement.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty.