Rota official pleads guilty, gets suspended sentence


Dexter Peter Taitano Apatang, resident director of the Rota Department of Labor, has pleaded guilty and was slapped with a one-year prison term sentence, all suspended, for attending a Republican rally in Guam in June 2018 in the guise of a legitimate government trip.

The hearing was held at the CNMI Superior Court on Rota last Sept. 27. Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja issued a minute order only last Tuesday and indicated that he will issue a judgment of conviction and commitment order.

In a separate arraignment that was also held last Sept. 27 on Rota, Apatang’s co-defendant, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, and five other co-defendants pleaded not guilty to misconduct in public office.

The five co-defendants are all current and former Rota officials. They are Department of Public Workers resident director Vanessa Charfauros, Department of Commerce resident director Dean Manglona, former Department of Public Safety resident director Eusebio Manglona, Department of Finance resident director Josepha Manglona, and Department of Community and Cultural Affairs resident director Magdalena Mesngon.

Naraja will hear all motions in a status conference and pretrial conference on Nov. 22, 2019, at 9am at the Superior Court on Rota.

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services resident director Dennis Mendiola failed to appear at the Sept. 27 arraignment. But Mark Hanson appeared on behalf of Mendiola’s counsel, Bruce Berline, via telephone. Mendiola’s arraignment was postponed to Oct. 25 at 9am at the Superior Court on Rota.

Chief Prosecutor John Bradley appeared as counsel for the government at the arraignment.

In Apatang’s case, the defendant appeared pro se or without a lawyer. He waived his right to a presentence investigation report.

Naraja accepted the plea agreement and Apatang’s guilty plea. The judge sentenced him to one year of probation.

The 46-year-old Apatang was ordered to pay $400 in restitution to the CNMI government by way of payroll deductions, in the amount of $100 per payroll until the amount is fully paid.

Apatang was required to pay $25 in court costs plus a probation fee to be set by the Office of Adult Probation.

As part of the deal, Apatang shall work with the Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and testify in both local and federal trials related to the Guam rally, and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam and the NMI will not file any federal charges against Apatang for his involvement in that rally.

Apatang was accused of misconduct in public office by going to Guam in 2018 to attend a campaign rally in the guise of official government business.

Naraja held the Sept. 27 arraignment against all defendants, except Apatang, after he granted the request of the Office of the Attorney General last Aug. 12 to file a second amended information.

The second amended information re-charged all eight defendants with misconduct in public office and eliminated the prior count of theft.

In the government’s request to file the amended information, assistant attorney general Robert Charles Lee said the second amended information clearly states the elements of misconduct in public office and further gives a clear picture of the Commonwealth’s theory or prosecution.

The filing of the second amended information prompted Naraja to issue an order last Sept. 10, vacating the jury trial in this case scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020, and instead set a bench trial on that same day.

Mayor Efraim Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, are facing charges in federal court involving 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 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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