Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jan 2005
Source: Saipan Tribune (US MP)
Copyright: 2005 Saipan Tribune
Author: John Ravelo
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested two CNMI narcotics 
policemen yesterday at the Department of Public Safety's premises on 
charges that they have been stealing seized evidence-money and illegal 
drugs-and have engaged in drug peddling activities. The FBI also arrested 
another man on Guam yesterday morning in connection with the charges.

The FBI collared police detectives Eric John Tudela Mafnas and Charley K. 
Patris, both members of the DPS Special Investigation Section, in a case 
that federal prosecutors consider as one of the worst corruption cases in 
the Commonwealth. The criminal activities have allegedly jeopardized local 
prosecution of drug cases.

The FBI tagged Mafnas as the organizer and leader of the criminal activity, 
accusing the policeman of stealing from the DPS some 46 grams of 
methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly referred to as "ice," on one occasion.

On Guam, the FBI also nabbed Carl Cabrera, who was charged for allegedly 
conspiring with Mafnas and Patris in peddling ice, according to federal 
prosecutor Patrick Smith.

The object of the alleged conspiracy was to sell the illegal drugs that 
were stolen from the CNMI police department's evidence room, Smith said in 
a news conference.

A 15-page indictment filed at Saipan's U.S. District Court accused the 
policemen of seriously abusing their position to steal money and illegal 
drugs from DPS custody several times.

"[Mafnas and Patris] identified and exploited weaknesses in DPS's controls 
and procedures with respect to the custody of evidence and record-keeping 
to both further and conceal their theft of property from DPS, including 
property that had been seized from persons in the course of SIS 
investigations. As Mafnas and Patris well knew, such weaknesses permitted 
them to steal property from DPS with minimal risk of detection," the 
indictment alleged.

The indictment accused the police officers of filing false and misleading 
reports related to DPS investigations, causing DPS records to be false and 
misleading. The indictment also accused the police officers of failing to 
file required DPS reports on evidence seized, controlled buys and persons 
arrested. Mafnas and Patris allegedly used for their own ends money 
entrusted them by DPS and the CNMI Attorney General's Investigative Unit.

The indictment charged Mafnas and Patris with conspiracy to commit theft, 
perjury and to make false statements, as well as theft concerning programs 
receiving federal funds. Smith accused the policemen of embezzling 
properties valued at over $5,000 from April 2002 through December 2003, 
which were in the custody of the DPS, an agency that received more than 
$10,000 in federal funds annually.

Smith also charged the three defendants with conspiracy to distribute and 
possess with intent to distribute at least five grams of ice sometime in 2003.

He separately charged Mafnas with possession with intent to distribute 
approximately 46 grams of ice, which the policeman allegedly stole from the 
DPS evidence room sometime on May 13, 2003. The DPS earlier seized the ice 
from suspected Japanese drug dealer Manabu Chizuwa, who was earlier 
sentenced to at least seven years imprisonment by the federal court, 
according to Smith. Local authorities also pursued criminal charges against 

The indictment also charged Mafnas and Patris with a count each of false 
statements and perjury for allegedly lying to the FBI and a federal jury in 
December 2003 that a former CNMI assistant attorney general, Dan Wolfe, 
authorized the destruction of the 46 grams of ice Mafnas took from the 
evidence room. Mafnas claimed to have burned the ice, while Patris claimed 
witnessing the burning of the evidence.

Allegations in the indictment further show that the police officers seized 
some $2,350 in cash and approximately $300 worth of ice from a suspected 
drug trafficker sometime on April 29, 2002. The following day, Mafnas 
allegedly falsely told DPS correction officers that the drug dealer was a 
Drug Enforcement Administration detainee, permitting him to have the 
trafficker released the next day without creating an official DPS record of 
the arrest. Mafnas and Patris allegedly pocketed the $2,530 that had been 
seized from the suspect.

Sometime on Dec. 31, 2002, Mafnas allegedly failed to submit to the DPS 
custodian evidence that had been seized during a vehicle stop. The evidence 
allegedly included marijuana.

The indictment also accused Mafnas and Patris of pocketing some $3,220 that 
had been seized from another suspected drug trafficker on Nov. 7, 2003. 
Patris allegedly falsified a DPS report that both he and another SUS 
officer had witnessed Mafnas counting the cash seized.


Both Mafnas and Patris denied the charges against them, pleading "not 
guilty" to the charges during their respective arraignment in federal court 
yesterday afternoon. Lawyer Brien Sers Nicholas assisted the two policemen 
during their arraignment.

Chief Judge Alex R. Munson set the policemen's trial to begin on March 14.

Assistant U.S. attorney Timothy Moran, who appeared with Smith, asked the 
judge not to release the policemen from custody, but Sers Nicholas assured 
that the police officers would appear in court to face the charges against 
them, insisting that they do not pose flight risks.

Munson granted the defendant's temporary release on unsecured bonds-$25,000 
for Mafnas and $50,000 for Patris. The judge ordered the confiscation of 
the police officers' travel documents.

The judge ordered that both defendants be placed on electronic monitoring 
at their own expense. He imposed a curfew on Mafnas and Patris, who are 
both required to stay at their respective homes from 6pm to 6am. Munson 
allowed Mafnas, however, to accompany his father to the Commonwealth Health 
Center's dialysis facility beyond his curfew hours if necessary.

Federal authorities would bring Cabrera to Saipan's federal court today, 
following the defendant's arrest on Guam yesterday. Cabrera would be 
arraigned on a charge of conspiracy to distribute some five grams of ice 
sometime in 2003.
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