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AG’s office asks court to dismiss charge against Dennis Mendiola

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THE Office of the Attorney General has filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the charge of misconduct in public office against Dennis Mendiola who is currently the commissioner of the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Assistant Attorney General Erin Toolan filed the motion on June 16, 2020.

According to the motion to dismiss, Mendiola has voluntarily paid agreed restitution and cooperated with the government.

Upon additional investigation and review, Toolan said it has been determined that, while there was probable cause, “there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for this particular defendant.”

“The Commonwealth moves for dismissal with prejudice,” she added.

Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja had not issued any order regarding the motion as of press time, Thursday.

Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig along with seven of his former/current resident directors, including Mendiola, was charged with misconduct in public office.

Misconduct in public office is punishable for a period of not more than one year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.

Vanessa Charfauros, Magdalena Mesngon, Dexter Apatang and Josepha Manglona have already disposed the cases against them through a plea agreement with the AG’s office.

As for Dennis Mendiola, chief prosecutor John Bradley on Thursday said: “Dennis Mendiola ultimately presented unique facts that convinced the AG’s office that his case could be resolved by him paying restitution for the money he received as excess reimbursement from the government on the trip to Guam. We appreciate his cooperation in providing additional information that had not previously been available.”

Besides the Rota mayor, the remaining defendants in the case are Dean Manglona and Eusebio Manglona.

According to the third amended information, Mayor Atalig, Dexter Apatang, Vanessa Charfauros, Eusebio Manglona, Dennis Mendiola, and Magdalena Mesngon committed misconduct in public office on or about June 1, 2018 to Aug. 30, 2018, being a public official and acting under the color of his/her office.

The information added that they committed an illegal act by violating 1 CMC § 8534 or 7705 when defendant/s used CNMI public funds, time, personnel equipment for a political or campaign activity — namely, attending or promoting a political or campaign rally on Guam.

It was not mentioned that Dean Manglona and Josepha Manglona attended the GOP rally on Guam, but both were also charged with misconduct in public office.

The two were accused of accepting per diem and rental car payments improperly and used administrative leave for days when they were not traveling on government business.

Initially, a theft charge was filed against the Rota officials, but it was omitted by the CNMI government in the second amended information thereby vacating the jury trial.

Judge Naraja scheduled a bench trial for the Rota officials for March 30, 2020, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic local trials have been postponed until further notice.

In federal court, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has rescheduled the jury trial for Mayor Atalig and co-defendant Evelyn Atalig for Aug. 4, 2020 at 10 a.m.

The federal government is accusing the Ataligs of arranging CNMI-government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from February 2018 to August 2018.

According to a superseding indictment, the Ataligs are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

 

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