Sentencing of Villagomez and Santos Couple

August 5, 2009

A little over a year after they were taken into custody, the three defendants in the CUC-Rydlyme case were sentenced by Judge Alex Munson.

The court documents for the sentencing of Timothy Villagomez, James Santos and Joaquina Santos state that in addition to a specified prison term, each defendant received 3 years of supervised probation, 200 hours of community service and shared restitution to CUC in the amount of $346,125. All of them were ordered to pay an assessment fee of $400 to the U.S. Government. Additionally, James Santos and Joaquina Santos were each ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.

The Court ordered that the defendants can "remain at liberty on the same conditions as previously set" until it is determined which prison each will be sent to. The defendants will be allowed to turn themselves in to the designated facilities if the restitution, assessment fee and fine are paid in full.

The defendants have ten days in which to appeal. They will not be free during their appeals, which are expected to be filed for each defendant.

Timothy Villagomez was sentenced to 87 months, 7 years and 3 months, in federal prison; James and Joaquina Santos were both sentenced to 78 months, 6 years and 6 months, in prison.

From the Marianas Variety:
A somber mood dominates Munson’s chamber as the relatives of the three grieve over the prison terms meted to them...
O’Malley said the defendants are all major players in the scheme to defraud the government.

He said that the transactions, especially the sixth which took place in 2007 happened at the time when CUC was struggling to survive.

He added that only 10 drums or 550 gallons or Rydlyme was legitimately requested but 3,000 gallons were purchased. He said that had Mrs. Santos added one more gallon to the 3,000 gallons, the Commonwealth could have saved $15,000.

“He is supposed to be a role model but he breached the public trust,” O’Malley said.

The government also argued that there was no acceptance of responsibility from the defendants by resigning from their positions after the verdict.

“I hope that tomorrow, when somebody from Capital Hill will think of stealing funds, they will think of what happened today,” O’Malley said.

Munson said that the sentences imposed to the defendants are just and fair. He said that the defendants were sentenced for four very serious offenses. Munson added that the defendants are well-educated and come from privileged families, and the court took into consideration the fact that the defendants are first-time offenders with no criminal history.

Munson said that the sentences of the defendants were the lowest in the sentencing guidelines, “not greater than necessary and this should serve to promote respect of the law,” Munson said. He added that he hopes this should be a deterrent to others who would follow the same.

Munson said that probation is not appropriate in the case of the defendants.

“The defendants’ case is not an exception in terms of family ties and responsibilities,” Munson said.

The judge said that he did not see any sign of acceptance of responsibility from the defendants and “resigning from their positions only after 19 days of jury trial does not show acceptance of responsibility.”

Munson said that based on earlier statements of the defense, the defendants has a huge family who will come out to take over the responsibilities left by the defendants.
From the Saipan Tribune:
Wearing a brown Hawaiian polo shirt and black slacks, the 46-year-old Villagomez was calm as he stood beside one of his lawyers, Leilani Lujan, and listened to Munson's pronouncement of the sentence.

After the sentence, Villagomez wiped his eyes as teary-eyed family members and friends hugged him.

Villagomez and the Santos couple were found guilty on April 24 of all charges relating to CUC's purchases of excessive amounts of a chemical, at a 400 percent markup, from companies owned by James and Joaquina Santos. The scheme extended over 10 years, beginning when Villagomez was executive director of CUC, and lasting through 2007, when Villagomez was lieutenant governor, exercising de facto control over the utility.

At advice of their lawyers, the three did not say anything to the court before their sentences were handed down.
The Saipan Tribune reported that out of all of the elected officials contacted to make a statement only Rep. Tina Sablan responded. From the Tribune:
Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) responded, saying it is an “encouragement to all honest citizens to report government abuse wherever they see it.”

“Public corruption hurts the entire community,” Sablan said.
Read the Saipan Tribune's REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK that gives a snapshot of what took place in the courtroom and reports some public response. Also view the coverage from KSPN2 News.

The following is a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, District of Guam and the NMI concerning the sentencing in the CUC-Rydlyme case:

LEONARDO M. RAPADAS, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and NMI announced that former CNMI Lt. Governor Timothy P. Villagomez, former Commerce Secretary James A. Santos, and Joaquina V. Santos, were sentenced today in the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands as follows:
Timothy P. Villagomez was sentenced to 87 months imprisonment, three years supervised release and restitution in the amount of $346,125;
James A. Santos was sentenced to 78 months imprisonment, three years supervised release, a fine of $25,000 and restitution in the amount of $346,125; and
Joaquina V. Santos was sentenced to 78 months imprisonment, three years supervised release, a fine of $25,000 and $346,125 restitution;

All three defendants are jointly and severally liable for the $346,125 restitution to the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation.
The sentences are the result of guilty verdicts returned on April 24, 2009 after a jury trial lasting 19 days. All charges related to a scheme to defraud the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation and the United States, including conspiracy to defraud, wire fraud, and bribery. Specifically, the charges related to the utility’s purchases of excessive amounts of a chemical, at a 400% mark-up, from companies owned by defendants James and Joaquina Santos, the brother-in-law and sister of defendant Villagomez. The scheme extended over ten years, beginning when defendant Villagomez was executive director of the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, and lasting through 2007, when Villagomez was Lieutenant Governor–exercising de facto control over the utility.

“These sentences send a message to all government officials that no matter what positions of authority they hold, they will be held to high standards of conduct because of the trust placed on them by the people. The people should know that at all times when they do business with the government, there will always be fair dealings with those responsible government officials,” said Lenny Rapadas, United States Attorney.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malley and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Strand and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The CNMI Office of the Public Auditor assisted in the investigation.


captain said...

What is interesting in this case and any of the big families that get convicted (or not) in criminal courts, is that the families and relatives cannot understand why these people should be convicted or sent to jail for their wrong doings.

The families think that there is nothing wrong with this type of criminal activity, typical case of the "have" and the "have not's".

If a non "connected" person commits a crime of a smaller nature then the cry from the "connected" is to "lock em up and throw away the key" yet with any of the relative of the "connected" these people get a slap on the wrist and are on the streets again committing more crimes. Look at the names of all of the repeat offenders and career criminals.Look who they are related to.

These people that wrote letters,to this judge, especially the priest, is unbelievable and hold double standards. (I think it just proved to the court how remorseless these convicted are.)
The excuse of these people are needed by the family is another lame, stupid one.All criminals are needed by the family.
All of the convicted politicians in the US have families.
Do these three people here think they are so special that only they have a family that matters.

The complacent, non action legislature are another pile of manure concerning Tina's attempt to investigate Tim or to have Tim step down or take a leave of absence after his indictment.

Not much unlike the inaction of the legislature during and after the "ghost employee" fiasco years ago with the Rota and Tinian senators. The Rota senator refused to step down, while the Tinian Senator took responsibility, protected his daughter and got a lighter sentence
According to the Rota senators statement at the time during the court proceedings "but everybody is doing it" what's the big deal.

I think it would have been better for a longer sentence but it will still send a message through the so called "pillars" of the community.
The letters also probably had a very negative effect on the judge along with Mrs Santos pleading that she could not afford to pay a fine or restitution because she is unemployed.

Saipan Writer said...

Great reporting, Wendy, as always (especially the earlier post, with all the links).

I've put up some of my own meager thoughts on the matter at my blog Saipanwriter, fwiw.

Wendy said...

Thanks Jane -

Your posts were excellent!

Your take on the petition was similar to mine. There is a link to the petition in my first post. I am not even sure that there were 600 signatures.

Your comment about Mr. Santos and the fact that he did not plead for leniency for his wife was also interesting. In most of the plea agreements connected to the Abramoff case one condition is that the spouse is not charged. Of course, there were no plea agreements in this case. Still not even a consideration in any document or verbal statement.

I also wondered why Mr. Villagomez was not fined the $25,000. I thought it might have been because the Santos couple had owned the companies that sold the Rydlyme and they had profited more? Where does the money from the fine go -also to CUC like the restitution?

Wendy said...


You made some interesting points.

It is certainly interesting to see who authored the letters and to read their comments. I wonder if letters to a judge actually have much weight though.

Criminal Defense Lawyer said...

Unlike restitution, which goes to the victim (CUC), the fine goes directly to the U.S. Government. The former is paid first.

As I explained in a comment to your post below, the reason for no fine is likely his lack of net worth. That would be in the (sealed) PSIR.

Anonymous said...

The family can be so proud Tim and Santos let a mother of a minor child, the wife and sister no less, go down to save their own skin. What tough guys...puke...I mean cowards.

Wendy said...

Thanks for clarifying Criminal Defense Lawyer!

I hadn't looked at all the comments below...