Finance releases names of businesses and people who returned BOOST checks

A February 2023 decision by the CNMI finance secretary, Tracy Norita, to direct the Bank of Saipan to stop payments in the corrupt Torres-era BOOST grant program scandal saved the Commonwealth government more than $1 million in federal funds. According to documents Ms. Norita provided to Kandit, the CNMI Department of Finance halted the disbursement of $825,000 in checks already drawn up for payment to 16 companies, and 12 checks totaling $6,000 that were addressed to farmers and fishermen.

The BOOST programs, which continues to be under investigation both criminally and by the Commonwealth Legislature, was designed by the administration of Ralph Torres. According to documents and witness testimony during last year’s legislative hearings on the scandal, determinations of who should be awarded grants, and how much they should be were made primarily by Mr. Torres’s chief of staff, William Castro. Most of the grantees listed by Bank of Saipan, which administered the program, were cronies of the former governor.

Mr. Castro is a former Guam senator, whom Republican Party of Guam sources are lamenting may run for senator on Guam despite his involvement in the CNMI scandal.

“The government is supposed to guarantee fair process,” Celina Roberto Babauta, who last year headed the BOOST scandal legislative investigation in the CNMI House, said in a statement on December 20. “But there is neither fairness nor a process with the implementation of the BOOST Program. We all agree that government should help support people in time of need. However, that help should be provided fairly and impartially. There should be an open process that is equally applied. Unfortunately, for the BOOST program, there was no written process, no record of meetings, no neutral decision-makers. And the only decider, according the Mr. William Castro, was Governor Torres, who appears to have used the program to please potential voters.”

Among the several questionable spending decisions Mr. Castro allegedly made was for a marketing program to advertise the availability of free money throughout the Commonwealth through the BOOST program. A major vendor that received funding for the marketing program was Shayne Villanueva, doing business as Roil Soil. Following the House investigation last year, Mr. Villanueva wrote a check to the Bank of Saipan for $12,000 to refund amounts he invoiced and was paid for under the BOOST program.

“Having reviewed our financial records and billing,” he wrote in a non-dated letter received by the Bank of Saipan on January 27, “we have identified invoice #113 and #115 have expenses that should have been shouldered by the company.”

The refund check covered a $6,000 payment to Roil Soil for its purchase of a MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, and another $6,000 for its purchase of a Go Pro, accessories, an FPV Drone, and a Sony camera “or comparable asset.”

Then, on February 24 this year, Bank of Saipan informed Ms. Norita that it had issued stop payments totaling $135,000 to five organizations that had been issued cashiers checks, then informed of the stop payment. The names of those organizations BOOSTed and the corresponding amounts follow:

Brenda A. Iglecias – RB5 & Grands: $5,000

I Napu: $20,000

Northern Marianas College: $40,000

Northern Marianas Descent Corporation: $20,000

Ocean’s VI, LLC: $50,000

On April 27, BOOSTed company Allied Pacific Environmental Consulting returned the $50,000 given to it by the Torres administration, explaining that the company had applied for $400,000 and submitted a business plan for how that money would be spent.

“While APEC appreciates the award of $50,000, APEC is simply unable to perform the business plan submitted with only one-eighth of the funds provided,” APEC director Joseph C. Razzano wrote in his letter to Ms. Norita accompanying the refund to the Commonwealth treasury.


$500 checks for grants in aid each to the following farmers and fishermen, that were voided:

Rodney Taisacan, Jr.

Severino Candia, Jr.

Luis Hocog Hocog

Afra Mendiola

Tara Ann Cepeda

Marites Hossain

Benedicta Borja

Regard Barit

Lifang Liang

Manuel Retuta

Bill Manglona

Manuel Cabrera


Checks drawn for grants in aid that were voided before disbursal:

Pacific Property Management, LLC: $10,000

Stellar Marianas: $15,000

Marianas Creations LLC: $20,000

Ocean Ridge Homes: $20,000

Marianas Crane: $20,000

Sagan Naihon: $20,000

Bake Me Happy: $20,000

Hatden Florist Designers: $20,000

Garden of Shannon: $20,000

Che’lu Lawn Services: $20,000

Dela Cruz Supplies & Services: $40,000

The Latte’ Training Academy: $50,000

Bonnie Babies Saipan, Inc.: $50,000

Ben-Ki: $50,000

Northern Marianas Sports Association: $200,000

Bank of Saipan: $250,000


Upcoming investigation

The CNMI House of Representatives speaker, Edmund Villagomez, appointed Ralph Yumul and Edwin Propst to lead a House special investigative committee that will dive into the Torres administration’s use of federal pandemic funds. Among those funds is the $17 million Mr. Torres allotted to the BOOST program. The investigative hearings will begin within the next few weeks, according to sources.

Since the formation of that committee, the Palacios administration has confirmed Mr. Torres’ over-obligation of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Commonwealth by more than $80 million. A desk review of one $36 million CARES Act grants at the beginning of the pandemic also was released, showing Mr. Torres had misspent almost $12 million, or nearly one third, of that grant alone. Sources indicate the House investigation will attempt to address these and the more-than-half-a-billion dollars in federal grants expended under Mr. Torres’ administration.

Tracy Norita and Edith Deleon Guerrero

Meanwhile, as the House investigates corruption, and the governor, Arnold Palacios, attempts to salvage the Commonwealth’s finances, the Senate president has been busy authoring legislation about pool covers, aligning with the republicans to sabotage the governor’s appointments, and fighting with her colleagues about parking spaces. I wish that was just a joke, but it’s not.


Click here to read the documents relevant to this story


  • This guy Shane Villanueva is a joke and papalatong! The AG should run after him for all the right reason.

  • This guy Shane Villanueva is a joke and papalatong! The AG should run after him for all the right reason. And as for sabotage Edith, she should resign as a disgrace representative. Imagine, fighting for a parking space and aiding and abetting good and qualified people from serving just to appease the few rotten people. This is bad karma!

  • Auntie Wilma

      08/23/2023 at 4:37 PM

    Growl. Roar. He rode a Fat Boy. I dreamed of the same.

    It was like walking arm-in-arm. Or that was how I liked to imagine it. His growled just a little bit harder than mine. He was, after all, more experienced at this.

    Just a week past, he’d given me a bottle of Red Label; what did it mean? Was there something more? A poignant question.

    I’d scripted my KKMP “interview” to show me shopping at DFS for him. Did he get the message? Did he notice the hearts I’d drawn on the reimbursement request?

    We pasendad past The Vault. I shrugged as if I’d never been there. He glanced at it for just a half-second too long, just enough to give me a glimmer of hope.

    Was it true what they said about him, about “deer meat”? Maybe it was all wishful thinking. But he’d literally named his beards “Lady Di” and “Yvonne.” The ruse was as obvious as “Harvard.” I couldn’t stop hoping.

    We stopped. We’d take pictures. “Decrease the dudus,” I repeated sing-song in my mind. “Swish a little less. Imagine Debbie’s watching.” But my eyes were on him, almost in him. When he lifted his arms, I breathed GOP BO like a drug.

    His seat glistened. I stopped myself from licking it dry. I’d have DPS swab it for me later, so I could enjoy the smell back home.

    He smiled and took out a little baggie. He opened it, sniffed it, offered some to me. Gud morning! Did I want a little BOOST from “video head cleaner”?

    Then I saw what was inside: Cheetos, not poppers.

    I cried.

    Would we, could we ever be one Marianas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *