The former mayor of Yona, Jesse Mendiola Blas, begged federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to release him from prison early in a virtual hearing Tuesday morning, and promised to be a model citizen. The judge said she will issue a decision later. Blas has done 66.6 percent of his jail time with a release date of May 10, 2022, according to United States probation officer, Janice Yamashita.
Mr. Blas’s lawyer, Laura Paul, stated Blas has heart disease, a serious medical condition, for which he had to get surgery to put in a stent. His other underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, gout and his weight and age, make him critically susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, she said. Ms. Paul also said that Blas has a good release plan with the support of the United States probation office. Blas intends to stay with his partner, Stacy Coletta, in Kauai, Hawaii. Ms. Coletta will be able to put Blas under her health insurance.
‘Severely betrayed the public trust’
United States prosecutor Laura Sambataro said, “At the end of the day, this is someone who should serve the full sentence. He severely betrayed the public trust on this island. The court, when it sentenced Mr. Blas, considered sentencing him above the range because…it wasn’t just the fact that he committed a crime. It was his conduct when he committed the crime. This is someone who really hurt the citizens of this island. Even though it was a sting operation, the victims of his case really are the citizens of Guam and so even if it’s only a matter of a few months, there’s a reason we hold public officials to a higher standard. Because of the damage done by their crime.”
Judge Tydingco-Gatewood responded, “What about the other public officials? You guys haven’t been prosecuting them. I mean, it’s been a while. I’m just curious…you guys gave him a sweetheart deal too. He was charged with five or six counts and then he plead to one count… The court notes for the record that often times I see the U.S. Attorney’s Office, when they come before this court and they prosecute either a public corruption case or another case, more often then not, the higher kingpins or other co-conspirators are not prosecuted… Mr. Blas has been confined for over two years now but if public corruption is such a high priority for the United States attorney’s office then I’m sorry, I only see part of it but not all of it. I don’t disagree with you that somebody who’s…a public corrupt official should serve all his time or her time…but my comment to you is what happened to all the other cases?”
Ms. Sambataro replied, “Well your Honor, it really depends on our ability to get people to cooperate with us and their willingness to be witnesses and that’s all I’ll say on that point. I think the citizens of Guam deserve seeing Mr. Blas serve his full sentence.”
Judge Gatewood replied, “Often times the United States Attorney’s Office comes in and says, ‘oh yeah, your Honor, it’ll be coming, or something will be coming but we can’t talk about it now’ then it never comes. There are other people that have been named and it was all public, we had tapes and so forth during the detention hearings and during the suppression hearings and during the sentencing and so forth…”
Ms. Sambataro brought the conversation back to Blas saying, “When someone is allowed out early from a sentence after having committed such a violation of the public trust, it sends a message to the people in terms of public officials on this island and how seriously corruption is taken. Thank you.”
Blas was serving as the Yona mayor when he was indicted in September of 2019 on public corruption, extortion, and drug related charges. According to the Grand Jury indictment against Mr. Blas, a federal confidential informant named Brenda Kinian posed as a major drug dealer and conspired with Mr. Blas to allow her to use U.S. Postal Service mailbox within the village’s cluster box system. This is where Kinian would have methamphetamine mailed.
Mr. Blas charged Brenda for the use of the mailboxes and, knowing that the mailboxes would be used to receive drugs, told Brenda that as the mayor, he had the authority to change up the mailboxes she would use to avoid suspicion and detection by postal inspectors. She paid him thousands of dollars in bribes for the use of the mailbox.
Now that Blas is convicted because of his guilty plea, the federal government is seeking forfeiture of $11,700 in proceeds he received. Ms. Paul added that Blas intends to pay about $2,000 of the forfeiture with a tax refund he had received.