Government credit card used to buy pre-Christmas fireworks

By Troy Torres and Vickilyn Manglona Teregeyo

By December 3, 2022, Ralph Torres should have been well aware that he had spent the Commonwealth government’s treasury into deficit. That – having lost in a landslide to his then-lieutenant governor – he had overspent the budget for the office of the governor in the first quarter of the fiscal year and left virtually nothing for Arnold Palacios to operate on through September 30, 2023. And, probably most notably, by December 3, 2022, Mr. Torres faced no prospect of removal from office for misusing government funds, since the republican senate prevented his ouster a few months prior for, among other things, making personal purchases with credit cards that the taxpayers reimbursed to him.

So, on December 3, 2022, Mr. Torres had no problem walking into Capitol Hill Market and charging $1,008 on his government-issued credit card at 4:17 p.m. to buy fireworks. This is according to receipts that have surfaced showing months of misuse of a government credit card (also known as travel card or P-card) issued to him as governor.

The P-card’s guidelines prohibit purchases for things like fireworks.

A review of the former governor’s official Facebook page, news archives, and announcements of government-sponsored events do not show any notices or news of a fireworks display between December 3, 2022, and the day Mr. Torres left office a month later.

This is the fourth in a series of revelations about Mr. Torres’ use of his government-issued credit card following his impeachment and the subsequent failure by the senate to remove him from office. A deluge of receipts from the CNMI Department of Finance show the former governor made tens of thousands in purchases in the CNMI and Guam during the election season and in the month between his loss to Mr. Palacios and the expiration of his term.

Earlier that year, Mr. Torres’ supporters in the CNMI Senate, controlled by republicans at the time, managed to thwart an effort to remove him from office following a lengthy legislative investigation by Celina Roberto Babauta that preceded impeachment proceedings and impeachment by the House. Among the articles of impeachment were that Mr. Torres stole money from the Commonwealth’s people by using 28 separate credit cards to make personal purchases for which he had the CNMI government reimburse him tens of thousands of dollars.

The list of cards with their suffixes follows:

1. 7438
2. 8223
3. 1001 – AMEX Fleet card
4. 1002 – Amex Fleet Card
5. 6500
6. 438857
7. 1232
8. 3987 – VISA
9. 6177
10. 2868
11. 2945
12. 1009
13. 5826
14. 5526
15. 1214
16. 7016
17. 6503
18. 6836
19. 434309
20. 3673 – 9/13/18
21. 2003 – AMEX
22. 2679
23. 4109
24. 438857
25. 6368
26. 7174
27. 2917
28. 9031

A Kandit source of information provided Kandit new documents indicating Mr. Torres was at it again. This time during the election season. This time using a government-issued credit card.

According to the Department of Finance’s Travel Card (P-Card) Program Guide rules and regulations, P-cards can only be used for certain purchases, including:

A. Airline Ticket
B. Hotel Stays
C. Parking Fees
D. Per Diem
E. Business Meals
F. Gasoline for Rental Vehicles
G. Stipend
H. Subsistence Allowance
I. Car Rentals
J. Excess Baggage Fee
K. Conference Fees
L. Taxis, or Rideshares
M. Railroad tickets
N. Bus tickets

There is no allowable use for fireworks purchases, not to mention the guide’s continuous mention of prohibition against personal expenses.

“Only eligible direct Government business s may be charged to the Travel Card; personal purchases are prohibited,” the guide states. “All Travel Card transactions must be supported by a detailed business purpose and by proof of purchase documentation.”

Part II of the guide states, in part:

A. The receipt must include the following information:
a. Date of transaction
b. Name of merchant
c. Transaction details (what was purchased)
d. Amount of purchase
e. Form of payment used
f. Indication that amount was paid
g. A printed name and signature of the approved user are required on the receipt.

B. Examples of receipts are below. Originals are preferred when a paper receipt is issued, but copies are acceptable
if originals are not available. Electronic/emailed receipts are also acceptable.
a. Detailed sales receipt
b. Packing slips with a dollar amount
c. Subscription or dues form
d. Conference registration forms
e. Statement-of-work reports from suppliers
f. Photocopies of software mail-order forms

Part III of the policy states P-card holders must submit documentation about who benefitted from the purchase, what the public purpose and benefit was from the purchase, why the purchase had to be an expense of the government, where the public purpose event or activity took place, and when the event or activity occurred.

Most of those details do not appear in any CNMI Department of Finance documentation for this purchase, according to Finance records.



  • They call me Joe

      05/06/2024 at 3:32 AM

    And in the CNMI, calls about ancestral graves being curses upon the IPI casino are taken seriously? Excuse me, but did anyone fail to discern the omens when Eloy Inos gave up the ghost? You got Ralphie (maybe it was karma for all the past CNMI bullshit?), and if I’m not mistaken, from the get go the mojo writing was on the wall? (all of it right in front of your face from the get go). And where was the FBI (still to this day?) Let me guess? Maybe busy investigating if Trump had anything to do with the unusual and excessive amount of imported vaseline and hand lotion supply shipped into the CNMI from China?

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