BOOST under criminal investigation

The CNMI government’s corruption prosecutor, James Kingman, confirmed a multi-agency investigation into the scandal-ridden federally-funded BOOST program.

James Kingman

“I can’t comment about specific targets of any ongoing criminal investigations,” Mr. Kingman told Kandit in response to its inquiry whether Shayne Villanueva and Rob Travilla are under criminal investigation, adding “Several agencies are looking at the BOOST program. The task force created by [the Office of the Public Auditor], [the Office of the Attorney General], and [the Department of Public Safety] is one of those.”

He did not name the other agencies he knows to be investigating as well.

An anti-corruption tribunal of the CNMI House this week began to question Mr. Villanueva and Mr. Travilla about their involvement in the election-year program during the Torres regime. Both gentlemen – who appeared before the tribunal in response to subpoenas issued to each of them – declined the answer any question of substance and instead invoked their right under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment to not incriminate themselves by answering the questions.

The committee has received and published evidence of alleged wrongdoing involving more than half-a-million dollars in combined transactions connected to businesses owned by Villanueva and Travilla in the marketing of the BOOST program.

At the end of this morning’s questioning of Mr. Travilla, committee vice chairman Edwin Propst hinted at the possibility of allowing Mr. Travilla to cooperate with the investigation, perhaps in exchange for a situation, where Mr. Travilla would not be liable to self-incrimination.

Ed Propst waits as Rob Travilla consults with his attorney, Joseph Horey, while BJ Attao observes them

“Mr. Travilla and your legal counsel, Mr. Horey, if there is ever a time that you would like to talk with this committee and we can move to an executive session where you can talk with us without anybody listening except this committee and our counsels and [legislative assistants], I just want you to know that that is on the table to discuss certain things and I want you to understand that,” Mr. Propst said on the record just seconds before the committee recessed the hearing for three hours.

Sources tell Kandit that during the three-hour recess, Mr. Horey and committee members were in closed door discussions. The hearing was supposed to reconvene at 2:30 p.m., with Salina Sapp of Nonstop Corporation expected to testify. A few minutes past 3 p.m., committee chairman Ralph Yumul reconvened the hearing with Mr. Travilla and his attorney seated before the committee, and announced the committee would recess until 10 a.m. Friday.

Mr. Yumul did not say whether the hearing would be made public, or if the committee would go into an executive session indicating Mr. Travilla’s cooperation with the investigation. However, sources also told Kandit that Mr. Kingman showed up at the House chamber. No further information is available about this report.

Kandit asked Mr. Kingman whether his office was open to proffering immunity to anyone under investigation in the BOOST scandal in exchange for their testimony against other actors in the program. The prosecutor was unable to comment, saying only “Negotiations about plea deals or proffer offers or anything like that are not something a prosecutor can speak about publicly.”

Mr. Propst also declined to comment about any deal that may be in the works.

The corruption prosecutor did clarify a misconception:

“The Superior Court has ordered the Clerk of Court not to issue subpoenas before a case is filed. Others are under the mistaken belief that the sole prosecuting authority and office of the chief legal officer of the Commonwealth cannot investigate criminal activity. I cannot comment further on ongoing investigations.”


  • I hope Ed Probst, et al, drag John Arroyo (president of the Bank of Saipan) before the public and make him sweat. He is the imbicile who attempted to “recuse himself” during his first appearance before the House. In my humble O, Arroyo is a lousy rat, and Guam Calvos still keeps him fed. Disgusting.

    • I agree completely, although I’m sure he’ll come with counsel and plead the 5th as well especially after the FBI raid. BOS received the highest amount (500K) of any recipient to supposedly “Boost” the bank….after they just moved into the fancy, shiny and brand new branch at the old Hakubotan? Let get to the indictment already!!!

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