IN CONVICTION FOR THEFT OF DPS CAR

Ogumoro gets no prison time

Former Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro smiles as he walks out of the Guma Hustitia with his counsel, Mark Hanson, after his sentencing for corruption involving a DPS car. Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo imposed no prison sentence on Ogumoro. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Ambrosio T. Ogumoro, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, walked free yesterday after getting no prison time in his conviction for car theft.

Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo, who handed down the sentence, believed that sending Ogumoro to prison is a waste of the government’s money.

“I am not going to send Mr. Ogumoro to jail,” said Govendo at the sentencing hearing that was attended mostly by Ogumoro’s family members, relatives, and friends.

The judge, however, stated that he does not condone public officials engaged in public corruption.

Govendo sentenced Ogumoro to six years in prison, all suspended, for theft by deception and misconduct in public office.

Ogumoro had been convicted of stealing a 1995 Toyota Tercel owned by DPS when Ogumoro was still the acting DPS commissioner.

As part of his punishment, he was placed on six years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, $2,500 in restitution to DPS, and $125 in court assessment fee plus probation fee. He was also ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service and write a letter of apology.

Govendo told Ogumoro that the community holds him in high regard, yet he breached the public’s trust.

“Please, I don’t want to see you in this court in the future,” Govendo told the defendant, who nodded.

About eight people, including Zoning board chair Diego Blanco, pleaded with the court for a lenient sentence for Ogumoro. Govendo said he also received several letters, asking for the same thing.

One of those letters came from former governor Juan N. Babauta, who stated that he met with Ogumoro and that the defendant had expressed remorse.

When asked if he wants to say something about Babauta’s letter, his lawyer, Mark Hanson, replied that his client won’t be speaking as he will appeal his conviction.

After a 10-minute recess, Hanson said that Ogumoro maintains his innocence but regrets putting other people on the spot.

Assistant attorney general Heather Barcinas had recommended a five-year sentence, saying it will send a message to corrupt officials and deter crimes similar to the ones committed by Ogumoro.

Barcinas pointed out that Ogumoro’s conduct undermined the faith the public in the government.

The prosecutor said Ogumoro was the acting DPS commissioner, empowered to deal with public money.

“It is a position of public trust. Every time a public official commits an offense of dishonesty, that trust is abused,” Barcinas said.

She noted that Ogumoro does not accept responsibility for his actions and that he is no stranger to the justice system, being a repeat offender.

“This is not his first. This is his third chance,” Barcinas said, pointing out that this is not Ogumoro’s first conviction and that he has been given several chances.

Hanson said that Ogumoro has been punished already and, in fact, had just served a year in prison in connection with a previous case involving former governor Benigno R. Fitial and former attorney general Edward Buckingham.

Govendo said that, based on Ogumoro’s record, he has no doubt that Ogumoro was an outstanding Marine and can contribute to the community. However, he also needs to be punished.

As soon as Govendo stood up after the sentencing, some family members and friends of Ogumoro clapped their hands. Wearing a long sleeve, a tie, and a pair of slacks, Ogumoro was seen smiling at the people in the courtroom.

When asked for comments after the sentencing, Barcinas said they are disappointed that Ogumoro did not get prison time.

At the time of the offense, Barcinas said, Ogumoro held one of the highest law enforcement positions in the Commonwealth and used his position to defraud the government of public funds for his personal gain.

Barcinas said the government will continue to prosecute all public corruption cases and hold public officials accountable.

“We would like to thank the Office of the Public Auditor and the Department of Public Safety for their continued assistance and collaboration with our office in securing a conviction against the defendant,” she said.

Barcinas said Attorney General Edward Manibusan is proud of the OAG in its effort in prosecuting public corruption cases and will continue to support these efforts.

Last May, a jury found Ogumoro guilty of of two corruption charges, but was acquitted of four other charges. Ogumoro was found guilty of stealing a 1995 Toyota Tercel owned by DPS but not the computer equipment.

The jury also found the former DPS official guilty of theft by deception but not guilty of theft by unlawful taking.

Govendo, who decided on the misdemeanor charges, found Ogumoro guilty of misconduct in public office, not guilty of two counts of removal of government property, and not guilty of one count of misconduct in public office.

According to the charges, Ogumoro brought the 1995 Toyota Tercel that belonged to DPS to a shop to be repaired using DPS funds totaling $2,500 in 2002 and then sold the vehicle as “scrap” for only $50 to Herman M. Manglona.

Manglona is the brother of Ogumoro’s common-law wife, Katherine Manglona.

The prosecution also alleged that Ogumoro instructed a DPS staff to bring a DPS desktop computer to a shop for repairs using DPS funding in the amount of $276. The computer, along with a laptop, printer, and other DPS property, were later used in the office of True North Bar & Grill, which is owned by Ogumoro.

In January 2015, a Superior Court jury found Ogumoro guilty of conspiracy to commit theft of services pertaining to the shielding of Buckingham case.

Then-associate judge David A. Wiseman found Ogumoro guilty of five counts of misconduct in public office, one count of obstructing justice: interference with a law enforcement officer or witness, and one count of criminal coercion.

In March 2016, Wiseman imposed a one-year prison term on Ogumoro plus other conditions.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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  • limitswitch

    Outstanding ! Once again the Justice system exonerates a criminal and sends the message to all that criminal activity by public officials is no big deal and if caught, not to worry. If anyone calls the result of these proceedings as justice served, they need to see a shrink. Clearly, there is a need for letters written to the US Attorney General about the lawlessness and prejudice that prevails in the justice system here.

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