21 Dec 2002

Two Northern Marianas senators charged with fraud

9:41 am on 21 December 2002

Two Northern Marianas senators have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the CNMI government of hundreds of thousands of dollars by recruiting their relatives for non-exsistent government jobs.

Senate vice president Jose Dela Cruz and Senator Ricardo Atalig were arrested by FBI agents and and now face more than 20 fraud charges which carry a maximum sentence of five years jail, a 250,000 US dollar fine and three years of supervised release.

Dela Cruz's 21 year old daughter, whom Atalig had hired as a community worker while she was receiving substantial government scholarship benefits was also arrested and faces similar charges.

All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges .