Top Palau prosecutor quits early
Koror, Palau -- Special Prosecutor Steven Killelea has formally given notice of his resignation as Palau’s top prosecutor having served less than three years into his five-year term.
Mr. Killelea is resigning to return home to Boston, Massachusetts with his wife who will be taking a position at the New England Aquarium. Killelea’s wife, Nicolle Fagan, is a co-founder of the Palau Legacy Project, which created the in-flight videos for inbound flights and the Palau Pledge.
“I am giving notice of my resignation because my wife Nicolle Fagan, co-founder of the Palau Legacy Project, has been extended an amazing opportunity to return to our hometown of Boston and take over the strategic marketing efforts for the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium,” Killelea said in resignation letter to President Remengesau on Feb. 5.
In his letter, Killelea didn’t provide the date of his last day in office but said his notice "will require further discussion about the transition of the Office of the Special Prosecutor to new leadership.” He also asked the president to begin that transition as soon as possible.
He further maintained he will be handing over a much different OSP from the one he inherited.
“Instead of chaos and turmoil, I offer the next Special Prosecutor the opportunity to take over an office staffed by very capable and competent staff members who have strived to maintain the highest levels of professionalism and ethics while investigating and prosecuting matters of public corruption and related crime,” Killelea said.
Killelea was first hired as an assistant interim special prosecutor and became a full-fledged special prosecutor in April 2016 following the resignation of Interim Special Prosecutor Melissa Simms.
Killelea becomes the third straight special prosecutor to resign without serving the full-term in office.
President Remengesau had accepted Killelea's resignation last week before leaving to attend the Micronesian Presidential Summit in the Marshall Islands.
Killelea in a statement to the media highlighted a number of successful cases investigated and prosecuted under his time:
• Secured convictions against former employee of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) on one count of Money Laundering, two counts of Theft of Government Property in the First Degree, two counts of Use of a Computer in the Commission of a Separate Crime, one count of Misconduct in Public Office, and seven counts of Tampering with a Government Record. The defendant embezzled monies which totaled over $60,000.00 collected from airline passengers paying the departure tax and green fee at Palau International Airport, altering government documentation and engaging in laundering transactions to obscure the defendant’s activity. The defendant was sentenced to ten years probation, the first year of which would be served as imprisonment, and a fine of $65,000.00.
• Secured convictions against former Executive Director of the Palau Public Lands Authority on two counts of Forgery and one count of Cheating (also known as Larceny by False Pretenses). As agreed upon in the plea agreement, the Court ordered a three year period of deferral of acceptance of the guilty plea, as authorized by 17 PNC § 601. During this three year deferral period, the defendant must make restitution payments totaling $20,000.00 to the victim of the crimes charged. Also under the agreement, the defendant was forced to resign from his position as Executive Director of the Palau Public Lands Authority, effective on August 24, 2017.
• Secured convictions against sitting state governor for one count of Misconduct in Public Office and one count of Code of Ethics violation. As agreed upon in the plea agreement, the Court ordered a three year period of deferral of acceptance of the guilty plea, as authorized by 17 PNC § 601. As part of the agreement, the defendant must pay a $5,000.00 fine to the Republic of Palau and is subject to terms and conditions of probation for the three year term.
• Secured convictions against former member of Belau Drug Enforcement Task Force on charges of Tampering with Physical Evidence, Obstructing Government Operations, Misconduct in Public Office, and Possession of a Controlled Substance. After a plea, the defendant was sentenced to a total of eighteen (18) months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $6,000 in fines to the Republic.
• Secured convictions against former Bureau of Public Safety employee for a total of seven charges, including: one count of Hindering Prosecution in the Second Degree, one count of Tampering with a Witness, one count of Tampering with Physical Evidence, one count of Obstructing Government Operations, one count of Criminal Conspiracy, one count of Criminal Attempt, and one count of Bribery. For those crimes, the Court ordered the defendant to be placed on probation for a period of seven years during which time he will be subject to strict conditions of probation, including a ban to work for the Republic in any law enforcement capacity. In addition, the defendant must pay a fine totaling $4,750.00 to the Republic of Palau.
• Secured conviction against police officer on counts of Theft of Government Property and Misconduct in Public Office. In addition to probation, the defendant was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution to the Republic.
• Secured convictions against Bureau of Public safety employee on numerous counts stemming from Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and defendant causing severe injury to victims involved in a vehicle collision. In addition to a jail term, the OSP was able to recover just over $12,000 in restitution for the victims and the court ordered defendant to perform 100 hours of community service.
• Secured convictions on three separate cases involving the same defendant on charges of Drug Trafficking, Drug Possession, and Unlawful Possession of Ammunition. In addition to a 16 year prison sentence, the OSP was able to forfeit the original bond of the defendant ($10,000), was able to seize and forfeit a vehicle, was able to seize and forfeit $2,400 in cash which was in the defendant’s possession at the time of the offenses, and the court ordered defendant to pay a total fine of $102,000.
• Secured conviction against sitting Minister on one count of Reckless Driving. In addition to short probation term, OSP recovered $20,000 in restitution to replace the government vehicle.
• Secured conviction against former police officer on Drug Possession case. In addition to probation, defendant was ordered to pay $1,500 fine.
• Secured conviction against Bureau of Labor and Human Resources officer on two cases involving charges of Bribery and Extortion. In addition to jail term, OSP recovered $400 in restitution for the victim, and a $2,000 fine.
• Secured conviction against police officer for one count of Bribery. Court sentenced defendant to five (5) years imprisonment, defendant to serve one (1) year and balance suspended for remainder of probation. Defendant was ordered to pay $120 fine, and was prohibited by the Court from being employed by the Republic in any law enforcement capacity for at least five years.
• Secured conviction against a foreign-national illicit business operator for one count of Obtaining a Government-Issued Identification Document Under False Pretenses in the Second Degree. The defendant failed to provide to Palauan authorities that she had in fact been convicted of a felony when applying for a renewal of her work permit. The defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
• Secured conviction against a foreign-national on significant criminal charges, including: one count of People Smuggling, two counts of Exploiting a Trafficked Person, one count of Aiding and Abetting Travel Document Fraud, and one count of Aiding and Abetting Forgery. The defendant engaged in a multi-year criminal enterprise which exploited people recruited from the Philippines to work in Palau. The trafficked persons were induced to come to Palau under false pretenses, were brought into Palau illegally, and secured work visas with the use of forged and fraudulent documentation produced by the defendant and her collaborators. The defendant was sentenced to ten years probation, the first year of which would be served as imprisonment. This defendant is ordered by the Court to be permanently deported from Palau at the end of her one year prison term, which will occur in March 2018.
• Secured conviction against police officer for numerous counts of sexual assault on a minor victim. Defendant was sentenced to serve six (6) years in prison, was ordered to register as a Sex Offender for life, was ordered to write a letter of apology to the victim and her family, as well as ordered to pay $6,000 fine to the Republic. This conviction was upheld by the Appellate Division.
• Secured conviction against former state governor on two counts of Code of Ethics violations. The defendant was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay over $12,000 to the Republic in fines and restitution. This conviction was upheld by the Appellate Division.