3 former Rota officials, another arrested on corruption charges
An arrest warrant has been issued for former Rota mayor Melchor A. Mendiola, even as members of the CNMI Public Corruption and White Collar Crimes Task Force arrested yesterday morning three former Rota municipal officials and another person for alleged conspiracy to steal government properties.
Sources said Task Force members failed to serve the arrest warrant on Mendiola because the former mayor has left the CNMI. That means the arrest warrant is still active. The warrant was issued by Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman.
Sources said Wiseman issued the arrest warrant against Mendiola and three other co-defendants—StaceyAnn M. Atalig, Tina M. Atalig, and Alfred M. Apatang—for theft, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, possession or removal of government property, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and misconduct in public office.
Department of Public Safety acting spokesman Jason Tarkong said arrested on Rota were Tina Atalig, 46; Alfred M. Apatang, 41; Andrew A. Barcinas, 44; and Rowena Barcinas, 43.
Sources said a separate case was filed against Andrew Barcinas and his wife, Rowena Barcinas, for removal of government property, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking or disposition, receiving stolen property, and theft by unlawful taking.
As of press time, it was not clear yet whether Stacey Atalig has already been arrested. She used to serve as Rota Finance resident director.
Saipan Tribune learned that Rowena Barcinas is the Rota Procurement officer, while Andrew Barcinas is her husband, who is a retired police officer. Tina Atalig is a former secretary of then-mayor Mendiola, while Apatang is the former field supervisor of then-mayor Mendiola.
Tarkong said the task force, backed up by the DPS Special Enforcement Action Section, made the arrests.
Tarkong said Wiseman imposed a $5,000 cash bail for each defendant.
He said the Barcinas couple, Tina Atalig, and Apatang were transported by plane to Saipan and that they are now in custody of the Department of Corrections.
“DPS will defer on comments concerning details of the investigation to OPA,” Tarkong said.
He said DPS participated and aided OPA with its investigative activities and in executing the arrest warrants.
Sources said OPA initiated the investigation after receiving in February a letter from Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig, asking it to look into the former mayor’s “questionable transactions.”
Atalig allegedly discovered that government properties such as computer laptops, folding tables, a typewriter and other items were unaccounted for or missing.
Sources said OPA investigators subsequently seized government items such as nine serving tables at Mendiola’s residence in Sinapalo; one laptop, one electric typewriter, and a box of government documents at the residence of Mendiola’s then-secretary Tina Atalig.
Investigators also recovered a laptop at the house of Apatang; one laptop at a house of Tina Atalig’s former staff; and one laptop from the husband of Stacey Atalig at the Saipan Commonwealth Health Center.
Investigators also towed a government’s green Jeep Cherokee from the residence of the Barcinas couple last February.
Mendiola allegedly admitted to investigators that the nine picnic tables were purchased using government funds and that he brought the tables to his house.
The tables were valued at $1,590, sources said.
With respect to the charges against the Barcinas couple, investigators learned that Rowena Barcinas, as Rota Procurement officer, allegedly used her position to manipulate the system into “surveying” several government vehicles.
One of the several vehicles that were allegedly never “surveyed” or bidded out was the government’s green Jeep Cherokee. After Andrew Barcinas asked someone to fix the vehicle, he then allegedly brought it to his house.