Norita resigns as a private investigator for Atalig duo


Former Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services commissioner Claudio K. Norita was hired as a private investigator by Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, in their corruption case, according to court documents filed in federal court yesterday.

Attorneys David G. Banes and Steven P. Pixley, however, disclosed that Norita informed Efraim and Evelyn Atalig last Tuesday that he had been advised by his attorney that he could no longer do outside work because of his employment by the CNMI government.

Banes and Pixley, who are the lawyers for Efraim and Evelyn Atalig, respectively, said that Norita had asked to be cut from the case as his company, Trublu Resources, was recently appointed by the CNMI government to provide census services of housing units on island.

As a result, Banes and Pixley said, they and their clients need time to find a new private investigator who will look into the case, including interviewing potential witnesses.

The lawyers asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to postpone the trial, which is currently set on Oct. 1, 2019, and reset the pretrial conference and pre-trial deadlines accordingly.

They said the Ataligs agreed to hire Norita as their private investigator on May 22, 2019.

Norita is also a former commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Banes and Pixley said they and the Ataligs had multiple meetings with Norita to discuss the investigation and then the status of the investigation.

They said Norita then stated that he would travel to Rota and Guam to interview potential witnesses.

The charges against the Ataligs now involve at least eight trips taken by the Ataligs in different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.

The lawyers said there is a significant number of potential witnesses on Rota, Saipan, and even outside the CNMI such as Guam and in U.S. mainland.

To adequately prepare for the Ataligs’ defense, the lawyers said they needed to hire a private investigator to conduct investigations and obtain information from potential witnesses.

The lawyer said that, in April 2019,the two defendants traveled to the Philippines, where Efraim Atalig had heart surgery, with Evelyn Atalig accompanying him.

Banes and Pixley said the Ataligs asked the court for a continuance of the trial, to give Efraim Atalig enough time for his rehabilitation treatment and recovery. The U.S. government did not oppose. The court postponed the trial to Oct. 1, 2019.

The lawyers said that, upon the Ataligs’ return to Saipan, they (Banes and Pixley) discussed the hiring of a private investigator and interviewed potential witnesses. They said the defendants then agreed to hire Norita.

Banes and Pixley said that failure to grant the continuance of trial requested would deny the Ataligs’ counsels the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.

The Ataligs are being charged with wire fraud, theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and federal funds theft. Each of them faces a separate charge of false statement.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

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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