Congressmen produce documents showing $1.1M to Atalig family and allege former secretary committed crimes

Documents presented by the House anti-corruption committee last week in the questioning of  David Atalig, Jr. show the former finance secretary’s son, sister, and sister in law received a combined $700,000 in federally funded BOOST grants. Another set of records show a business owned by his stepson was pre-approved by Mr. Atalig for  $360,000, though it is unclear whether the grant was made.

Emails originating from Mr. Atalig’s account indicate he pre-approved the nearly $1.1 million in grants to his close family members in late 2022 without the applications going through any review, according to committee members.

Committee members Vince “Kobre” Aldan and Vicente Camacho focused more than 20 minutes of their interrogation of Mr. Atalig on the six businesses owned by his family members that the former finance secretary allegedly used his official government position to push through. Mr. Aldan, at the start of his interrogation read aloud a section of CNMI law that states:

“A public official or public employee shall not use the public official or public employee’s office, staff or employees of the public official or public employee’s office to give the public official or public employee or any other person unwarranted privilege, including the following: (a) Seeking employment or contracts for goods or services. (b) Conducting private business activities or activities for private financial gain.” – 1 CMC §8531

“Isn’t it true that you broke this law?” Mr. Aldan asked him.

“On the advice of my attorney I respectfully respond to your question by asserting my Fifth Amendment right under the United States Constitution as well as the CNMI Constitution Article 1 Section 4c,” he replied. Mr. Atalig answered every question of substance with this or a variation of this reply essentially invoking his right to not incriminate himself by answering questions.

Documents show that two of the six businesses in question – Maga Lahe Grill and D&D Fish Market – are owned by Dominic and Sherry Pangelinan. Ms. Pangelinan, the documents state, is Mr. Atalig’s sister in law. Maga Lahe Grill, documents show, was awarded $200,000 on December 13, 2022, two days before its application for the funds to the Bank of Saipan through Mr. Atalig.

Less than two months earlier, the Pangelinans’ other business, D&D Fish Market, was awarded $125,000 through an application Mr. Atalig allegedly expedited and pre-approved himself.

The former finance secretary became visibly agitated when Mr. Aldan brought up the next grant award in question: $200,000 to Dash Carwash, which those records show is owned by Mr. Atalig’s son, Cameron Atalig. Emails bearing David Atalig, Jr.’s name indicate the former finance chief also pre-approved that grant.

Two of the six businesses in question are tied to what documents indicate is Mr. Atalig’s sister, Carlene Atalig Mitchell. On December 1, 2022, Bank of Saipan cut a check for $50,000 to Fat Jack Holdings LLC dba Mainland Mango following Mr. Atalig’s alleged pre-approval on November 25 that year. Ms. Mitchell, the documents show, is a shareholder in that company.

That followed Mr. Atalig’s pre-approval of a November 1, 2022 disbursement of $125,000 to Ms. Mitchell’s other business, The Trove, documents show.

Mr. Camacho quoted a statement from Bank of Saipan president John Arroyo regarding that grant: “Trove did not submit a business plan or even a request letter indicating the amount needed for this business. It appears that funding already was approved for this business.”

Mr. Atalig would not answer any of the questions related to those businesses, nor Mr. Aldan’s question about whether a grant for $360,000 Mr. Atalig allegedly approved to Marianas Post Express ever was paid out. Documents show that business is owned by Mr. Atalig’s stepson, Jesse A. Deleon Guerrero.



  • Try to get copies of some of the BOOST applications so we can give our feedback on flaws in the documents

  • Why is the agreement entered into with Bank of Saipan not being discussed? It will be interesting to see the Bank’s role and obligations. If secretary of finance submits an application that has not been reviewed by the committee, is the Bank not obliged to put the application on hold due to conflict of interest? The Bank and the staff probably have low ethical and moral values anyway. They also benefitted from BOOST. What a mess.

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