Foremost irked after being slighted by court ruling - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Foremost irked after being slighted by court ruling

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Most victims of criminal cases rely on the government to ensure that justice is carried out through restitution.  But for one local business that was the victim of theft, losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars, that was hardly the case.   

Four years ago Foremost discovered that money and products were being stolen from its warehouse and vending machines around the island.  At the time Brian Taitano, Christopher Sablan and Joe R.B. Santos were arrested.  They were accused of using a stolen master key to steal inventory from the foremost warehouse and vending machines.

News files indicate that police estimated close to $1 million in cash and products had been stolen over a two-year period.

Foremost CEO Marcos Fong says he was disappointed and surprised with the way the case was handled. He says they were never given the opportunity to provide evidence of the substantial loss to the company and were never informed of the plea deals that allowed the three defendants to get off with a slap on the wrist by pleading guilty to theft of property as a misdemeanor.

But the bad news didn't stop there.  Despite a request from the Attorney General's Office for restitution in the amount of more than $160,000, Superior Court Judge Maria Cenzon noted that Sablan's two-year probation term had expired and the AG's Office failed to submit a restitution report to the court immediately after the sentencing.

Sablan's attorney, Howard Trapp, said, "The government comes up with restitution two years after the case started and they've come up with information that they can't prove dollar-for-dollar."  The judge noted, ""In this case the court finds it doesn't not have jurisdiction over Mr. Sablan in such a manner to order that he pay the restitution amount given that his probation expired on November 1, 2013."

Sablan's case was closed and he didn't have to pay a single penny in restitution.  As for the other two defendants, Her Honor asked counsel, "What reasonable grounds do you have for the court to go beyond the $1,000 maximum?"

The AG's Office said it could bring Foremost back for another hearing to provide information regarding the loss from the theft.  What they didn't know is that a company representative was at the hearing and ready to present the evidence but was never called. The court, however, noted that even if it used some discretion in imposing a greater amount of restitution, the statutory maximum for a misdemeanor is $1,000 - significantly below the estimated $1 million in cash and products the police reported had been stolen by the suspects.

Judge Cenzon said, "While the court notes that restitution is of course one of the primary reasons why the court would enforce a judgment for restitution, the court finds that the amount is just too exorbitant and there's no support in the law to award this amount."

Taitano and Santos meanwhile were ordered to pay $1,000 each and remain on probation until 2015.

Fong meanwhile has subsequently gone back to the AG's office that committed to go back and review the case.  He says Foremost would not have brought the matter up if it did not find sufficient reason to believe that it was victimized.

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