Pohnpei Supreme Court finds Rodriguez guilty of seven criminal charges

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

March 19, 2019

Pohnpei—Associate Justice Mayceleen JD Anson of the Pohnpei Supreme Court found Benjamin Rodriguez guilty of seven criminal charges filed against him by the State.  Sentencing for those crimes is set for April 22.

Nearly two years ago, prosecutors of the Office of the Attorney General filed 13 separate criminal charges, each related to three separate incidents of theft of government funds.

The evidence was sufficient to prove that Rodriguez’s trip to the Philippines on April 1, 2011 was not for official reasons.  Therefore he was not eligible for the $5902.58 Pohnpei State provided in cash advances and ticket fare for himself and his spouse.  The trip was in fact for personal medical care and was fully covered by FSM Micare Insurance.  In addition to collecting $5902.58 in travel funds, the Rodriguezes returned from the Philippines two days early but failed to return all of the per diem and airfare the State had advance to him.

For that theft of funds, the court found Rodriguez guilty of “Cheating”, “Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received,” and “Misconduct in Public Office”.  Rodriguez was Chief Justice of the Pohnpei Supreme Court at the time where he remained in office until he resigned in 2017.

The Court also found that on July 28, 2011, he requested and authorized a check to be issued to Genesis Pharmacy and Clinic in the amount of $322.20.  The money belonged to Pohnpei State and was used to pay for his personal medical expenses.  The Court again found him to be guilty of “Cheating”, and also found him to be guilty of “Petit Larceny” in that matter.

The criminal information filed in March of 2017 said that from 2011 to 2017, Rodriguez attended trainings, workshops, seminars and conferences.  Rodriguez’s travel, lodging and stipends or per diems for those events were paid for by the sponsoring entities for each of the events.  Among the sponsors were the U.S. Court Pacific Island Education Program, the Pacific Judicial Council, the Federal Court of Australia, and AusAID.  At the same time, Rodriguez also received full per diem from Pohnpei State for travel to the events though his living expenses were already covered by the sponsoring entities for each event.  The originally filed criminal information did not provide a dollar figure for the total amount of money Rodriguez wrongly received from the State.

For that crime, the Court found Rodriguez guilty of “Cheating” and “Misconduct in Public Office”.

Hearings on two other separate sets of criminal charges filed by the State against Rodriguez are ongoing.  A separate civil action filed by the State is on hold until all of the criminal matters are heard.

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