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Federal court enters default judgement against IPI

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FOR its failure to comply with court sanctions and previous discovery orders, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Friday entered a default judgement against Imperial Pacific International LLC. in the lawsuit filed by seven workers who are alleging labor violations.

Judge Manglona also directed the plaintiffs to submit a petition for damages within two weeks.

Aaron Halegua, one of the two attorneys who represent the plaintiffs, said the court’s decision “resulted from the casino's persistent violation of discovery orders, including the failure to produce any e-mails, WeChat messages, WhatsApp messages, or mobile phone data.”

 Halegua said Judge Manglona described Imperial Pacific's noncompliance and delays as “mindboggling” and “very frustrating.”

  “The court decided that Imperial Pacific's repeated violations of multiple court orders, as well as its persistent obstruction and delay in gathering evidence, were willful acts and have continued for too long. Our clients suffered tremendously as victims of a forced labor and human trafficking scheme in which they paid high recruitment fees based on false promises, only to then work long hours under dangerous and inhumane conditions. They endured scorched legs, burnt hands, and smashed fingers to build that casino, but never received a penny of compensation for their suffering. We are glad that they are one step closer to obtaining justice,” Halegua said.

 The plaintiffs, who are construction workers, were employed by IPI’s former contractor and subcontractor MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co. and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration. The plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yan.  Their attorneys are Aaron Halegua of New York and Bruce Berline of Saipan.

 Their lawsuit sought an unspecified amount in damages and monetary compensation for the plaintiffs’ injuries, pain and suffering.

Asked for comment, IPI  attorney Mike Dotts said: “The judge has indicated she intends to move quickly and the default judgment stage will likely be completed by mid-July. Once the default judgment stage is completed a judgment will be entered against IPI for a specific dollar amount.”

  He said IPI will appeal and likely file a motion for a stay.

The default was entered because there were issues with IPI's compliance with the court's orders to turn over information to the plaintiffs' attorneys, Dotts said.

 “But IPI was doing its best to come into compliance and was making significant progress during the last couple of weeks,” he added.

 “Default was also entered because IPI had failed to pay certain sanctions and costs. All of them were for relatively small amounts when compared to what IPI has invested. The key payment not made was for $30,000 owed on June 5. IPI was willing to pay the $30,000 and the other costs but because of a severe cash shortage IPI had asked for an additional 60 days.”

 During the House-Senate Joint Gaming Committee hearing on June 4, 2020, Rep. Tina Sablan raised the issue of IPI’s ability to hire foreign workers if it defaulted on its pending civil lawsuit that alleges labor violations, including a human trafficking scheme.

 Commonwealth Casino Commission Chairman Edward Deleon Guerrero acknowledged that the issue is a concern.

 Deleon Guerrero said CCC can use the federal judgement as a reason to  sanction IPI.

 Asked about the  issue, Dotts said he does not know if a default judgment in a civil case will affect IPI’s ability to hire foreign workers.

  “Hopefully not,” Dotts said. “If it does it will likely be the end of the business.”

He added, “It will be very sad if the investors lose their entire investment just because they were not timely in turning over information and failed to pay some relatively small sanctions.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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