Madolenihmw officials convicted of multiple charges related to theft of funds

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

April 11, 2021

Pohnpei—After many hearings, Pohnpei Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Nakasone issued a judgment of conviction for four former Madolenihmw officials including the former magistrate, Petrick Ringlen.  The judgment, which was issued on March 2, only last week came to the attention of The Kaselehlie Press.  A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 6, but was postponed.

Last year, Pohnpei State charged the four with various crimes after a Pohnpei Office of the Public Auditor revealed that they had been receiving significant, unauthorized payroll advances, some for more than a decade.  Besides Ringlen, the convicted officials were Maioleen Etse, the Madolenihmw government treasurer; Sohnasem George, an account clerk; and Hernet Ringlen, a tax collector for Madolenihmw.

The four were each initially charged with Grand Larceny, Embezzlement, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received, Misconduct in Public Office, and Criminal Conspiracy.

According to the March 2 judgment, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charge of Criminal Conspiracy.

The judgment said that prosecutors had also offered the opinion that a person could not be simultaneously charged with Grand Larceny and Embezzlement. They offered to dismiss the charge of Grand Larceny. 

The Court disagreed, and used several pages in its judgment to explain why it decided not to dismiss that charge.  It found all defendants guilty of both of the felony charges along with the remaining charges after dismissal of the Criminal Conspiracy.

It said that between the years 2007 and 2019, the Madolenihmw Treasury had paid out a total of $321,631.81 in salary advances, with an unpaid balance of $106,496.60.  The issuance of salary advances is prohibited by law and even had the Madolenihmw Government had issued a statute authorizing it, such statute would have been illegal according to Pohnpei law.

Pohnpei Auditor Compliance Investigator Sophia Pretrick testified during trial that in the years 2017 and 2018, Petrick Ringlen received 52 regular paychecks along with 60 salary advances.  George received his regular payroll checks and 39 salary advance checks.  Etse and Hernet Ringlen also received their regular pay and salary advances.

The judgment said that all of the accused waived their rights and spoke freely when questioned.

Pretrick told the court that George prepared the requests for advance, Etse certified them and Petrick Ringlen approved them.

The State proved to the Court that Petrick Ringlen has an unpaid balance for advances of $29,542.18.  Maioleen Etse has a balance of $9,200.43.  Sohnasem George has a balance of $16,910.10.  Hernet Ringlen’s unpaid balance is $11,872.38.

“Based on evidence adduced at trial, the Plaintiff (prosecutor) proved beyond reasonable doubt that Defendants committed the offenses charged.  Accordingly, I find that defendants committed the offenses of Grand Larceny, Embezzlement, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received, Cheating, and Misconduct in Public Office,” the judgment said.

Each of the charges is a felony.  At press time, the scheduled sentencing hearing had not yet taken place.  

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