- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Former deputy AG suspects cover-up in AGO 'retirement scam'
A former deputy attorney general has raised suspicion the government is covering up an alleged “retirement scam” at the Office of the Attorney General that cost the government of Guam nearly $1 million.
Joseph Guthrie, who served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2006, filed a formal complaint with Police Chief Stephen Ignacio and Attorney General Leevin Camacho on Feb. 1, alleging “double dipping” by former OAG employee John Patrick Mason.
More than 90 days since filing the complaint via email, Guthrie said neither agency has acknowledged receipt of his complaint.
“We are aware Mr. Guthrie filed a complaint with GPD,” Carlina Charfauros, spokesperson for OAG, told the Pacific Island Times. “We do not have comment at this time.”
An email and phone call to Ignacio were not returned as of this writing.
The complaint for official misconduct and falsification was filed against former AGO officials Philip J. Tydingco, Alicia Limtiaco, Alberto Tolentino, John Weisenberger, Leonardo Rapadas and Mason, who Guthrie alleged “were complicit in all or some of these crimes.”
“The victims of this criminal conduct were the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, and the Government of Guam General Fund,” the complaint reads.
“As a result of these six government attorneys' criminal conduct, the Retirement Fund suffered losses in the amount of approximately $535,519.34 (exclusive of lost return on investment), and the General Fund suffered losses of approximately $294,055.68 (exclusive of interest), for a total of approximately $829,575,52. These are the amounts sought in restitution. The foregoing figures do not include an additional $43,368.75 (approximately) in damages that is still recoverable in a civil action from two of the government attorneys.”
The complaint reiterated allegations in the lawsuit filed by former assistant AG Stephen Bischoff against Rapadas, Weisenberger and Tydingco in 2014. The lawsuit was settled and the case was dismissed on Aug. 22, 2017.
"The defendants agreed to pay $3,000 into the General Fund and $2,000 to reimburse me for my costs and fees," Bischoff told the Pacific Island Times. "They also agreed not seek reimbursement from the Office of the Attorney General or the Government of Guam for legal fees they incurred in the case."
Bischoff has since joined the Guam Public Defenders’ Office.
Mason served as deputy attorney general in charge of the Civil Litigation Division from 1987 to 2002. He left the OAG “sometime in 2002” and began working as an attorney for the Guam Department of Education. In 2003, he became eligible for an annuity from the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, and retired from government service on Jan. 10, 2004.
Mason later joined the Carlsmith Law Offices as he started receiving his annuity while working in private practice.
Mason later sought to return to his old job at the OAG but, the complaint said, he “knew that if he returned to the OAG as an employee, his annuity would be suspended during the term of his re-employment pursuant to statute.”
The OAG, according to the complaint, managed to circumvent the hurdle by hiring Mason as an independent contractor, thus allowing him to continue receiving his retirement benefits.
On Jan. 3, 2007, Mason signed a professional legal service contract with then Attorney General Alicia Limtiaco and deputy AG Alberto Tolentino. Tydingco certified the fund availability for the contract worth $157,186.
“The contract itself was knowingly procured in violation of the Guam procurement law,” the complaint said.
Guthrie said the OAG did not issue a request for proposal to solicit other potential independent contractors for the job.
“From Jan. 2, 2007 to Sept. 17, 2014, Mason performed the duties of deputy attorney general in charge of the Civil Litigation Division, and held himself out as such, both to the general public, and within the Office of Attorney General,” the complaint said.
Describing the contract as a “sham,” Guthrie said Mason actually carried out duties that could only legally be performed by an employee.
“Accomplices caused GG-1 indicating (Mason) was an unclassified employee not to circulate to the Retirement Fund,” the complaint said. “By entering into, and approving, the independent contract, general fund monies which— had (Mason) been paid as an unclassified employee — would have gone to the Retirement Fund to pay off the unfunded liability, were diverted into (Mason’s) pocket. To the tune of approximately $25,000 a year.”
In a cover letter to the police chief, Guthrie said the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges in court against the six government attorneys expires on or about Aug. 11, 2020.
“This is three years after Aug. 11, 2017, when former Government of Guam Chief Prosecutor Phillip Tydingco retired,” Guthrie said. “The applicable statute of limitations provides that criminal charges for any offense based upon misconduct in office can be brought as late as three years after the GovGuam officer or employee committing the misconduct leaves office, regardless of when during the employee or officer's tenure the misconduct occurred.”
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