Search warrant details wire fraud, money laundering investigation in CNMI

CASINO PROJECT: The Imperial Pacific International's casino project in Saipan is shown. The casino developer's offices and Northern Marianas Gov. Ralph Torres' office were searched by FBI agents last week. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

FBI agents were searching for documents and evidence related to wire fraud, schemes to defraud, conspiracy, and money laundering when they executed a series of search warrants in Saipan last week including at the offices of Imperial Pacific International, the owner of Saipan’s casino and at Gov. Ralph Torres’ office.

Federal law enforcement targeted the accounting office of Imperial Pacific International, located in the Marina Heights Office Park on Middle Road, Saipan on Nov. 7.

The FBI has only confirmed that multiple search warrants were conducted in Saipan but the details of what they were searching for and what sort of criminal investigation is underway have not been released.

The Guam Daily Post has learned that authorities were searching for a number of documents and records that constituted evidence of various federal crimes including wire fraud, money laundering, honest services fraud and illegal campaign contributions and donations by Gov. Ralph Torres, Vincent Torres, Victorino Torres, Joaquin Torres, Alfred Chi-Yam Yue, or Ron Li Anderson, including cash and items of significant value such as gems and artwork.

Employee cell phones, thousands of pages of documents, ledgers, and computers were seized during the raid as authorities were also searching for documents, records and property relating to any transfer of funds or items of greater value than $1,000 from Imperial Pacific International, or any of its parents, subsidiaries, or affiliates, and billing documents to Ralph Torres, Vincent Torres, Victorino Torres, Joaquin Torres, Yue, Anderson, Legend Saipan, Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, Torres Brothers LLC, and VR Company LLC. This included bank account information, transfer requests, financial statements, credit reports, loan records, debt obligations, and telephone records dating on or after Sept. 1, 2013.

The searches also sought documents related to Billion Ventures Limited or Legend Giant Investments Limited, correspondence related to tax matters between IPI and the CNMI government, all documents, records and property related to real estate transactions, and communication between Ralph Torres, Yue, Anderson and any employee, owner or executive of IPI were also the subject of the ongoing investigation.

The feds also sought documents and records related to tickets, notes, receipts, and other items relating to domestic and international travel, including flights, hotel stays, ground transportation, meals and entertainment by IPI on behalf of Ralph Torres, Vincent Torres, Victorino Torres, Joaquin Torres, Yue, Anderson, Legend Saipan, Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, Torres Brothers LLC, and VR Company LLC. This included bank account information, transfer requests, financial statements, credit reports, loan records, debt obligations, and telephone records dating on or after Sept. 1, 2013.

Federal authorities sought to seize all documents and records related to the purchase or ownership of real estate, vehicles including watercraft, artwork, luxury items such as name brand watches, jewelry, electronics or furniture by IPI for the benefit of Ralph Torres, Vincent Torres, Victorino Torres, Joaquin Torres, Diann T. Torres, Rowina O. Torres, or Brenda C. Torres.

The Guam Daily Post also learned that authorities were seeking documents related to donations and contributions to the CNMI or U.S. political campaigns or to candidates for political office. 

IPI’s legal counsel Phillip Tydingco contends the ongoing federal investigation warrants a mandatory stay in a civil lawsuit filed against the company by Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Quingchun Xu, and Xiyang Du.  The former workers alleged they were victims of a forced labor scheme when they worked on the casino project on Saipan.

Tydingco argues federal law mandates a stay of a civil case during the pendency of any criminal action.

He argues the massive casino project was and still is the “principal economic engine for the Commonwealth which revived the local economy,” and alluded to the financial records, invoices, accounts receivables and other documents related to the casino were seized during the search warrant as well as communication between IPI and the Office of the Governor related to the casino project.

Tydingco said IPI and its individual executive management or corporate representatives’ Fifth Amendment rights will arise should not be confronted with having to decide between vigorously defending the civil action or preserving its rights in connection with a potential governmental prosecution, he wrote.

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