Federal agents arrested last week two alleged conspirators of Mohammad Jahangir Miah in a scheme of cashing fraudulent CNMI tax refund checks at grocery stores.
Earl Eric Mirano, also known by the aliases Eric C. Mirano and Earl Cruz Mirano, was arrested Wednesday, while Cecilia Blas was apprehended on Friday.
Mirano and Blas were served with an arrest warrant after an indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the NMI last Tuesday, April 10.
The indictment charged Miah, Mirano, and Blas with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Mirano was taken to court Thursday afternoon; he pleaded not guilty. Court-appointed counsel Vicente Salas served as his lawyer.
Blas was brought to court Friday afternoon; she pleaded not guilty. Attorney Mark Hanson appeared as court-appointed counsel for her.
Blas is Miah’s girlfriend, according to court papers.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona released Mirano and Blas on a $5,000 unsecured bond.
Manglona set the jury trial for June 11, 2012.
FBI agents arrested Miah last March 19 after the U.S. government filed a criminal complaint charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Miah at the time was on home confinement after being convicted in a driver’s license scam at the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Motor Vehicle.
The U.S. government last week moved to dismiss the complaint against Miah because of the filing of the indictment.
According to the indictment, Miah, Mirano, and Blas enriched themselves by fraudulently cashing stolen, “stale” tax refund checks in stores around Saipan. The tax refund checks were those had not been claimed within one year of the CNMI government’s issuance.
Miah would buy a “stale” tax refund check from a co-conspirator who had stolen the check from the Department of Finance.
Miah and other persons would alter the text of the check, removing the name of the true payee and putting in its place a name of their own choosing, such as that of Mirano.
Mirano obtained a check in the amount of $189.83 from Miah. Although initially issued to “Yanqun Fang” on Dec. 19, 2002, the name “Earl Cruz Mirano” was inserted and the check was cleared for payment.
Mirano obtained another check in the amount of $639.63 from Miah. Although initially issued to “Hong Mei He” on Dec. 21, 2004, in the amount of $239.63, the name “Earl Cruz Mirano” was inserted and the check was cashed.
Miah would loan the car he used to his girlfriend, Blas, and send her with a fraudulent payee, such as Mirano, to a store that would cash the check from them.
Blas would collect the cash received in exchange for the check and take it back to Miah.
The defendants obtained a “stale” CNMI tax refund check in the amount of $446.22 issued to “Fen Deng.”
The defendants, or one of their co-conspirators, altered the check so that it appeared to be made out to Mirano.
On Jan. 26, 2012, Mirano cashed the check at a store.