By Troy Torres
(Agana, Guam) Former Yona Mayor Jesse Blas pleaded guilty in federal court to corruption charges in one of the most high-profile public corruption cases in recent Guam history.
Blas stood before federal judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood and admitted to being guilty of one count of Extortion under Color of Official Right in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 1951. He also told the judge he did receive money from informant Brenda Kinian for her use of the Yona mail boxes to import crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice.” The former mayor said in court today, “I thought that would be ok at the time.”
Blas was serving as the Yona mayor when he was indicted last September on public corruption, extortion and drug related charges. According to the grand jury indictment against Mr. Blas, a federal confidential informant named Brenda Kinian posed as a major drug dealer and conspired with Mr. Blas to allow her to use U.S. Postal Service mailbox within the village's cluster box system. This is where Brenda would have methamphetamine mailed.
Mr. Blas charged Brenda for the use of the mailboxes and, knowing that the mailboxes would be used to receive drugs, told Brenda that as the mayor, he had the authority to change up the mailboxes she would use to avoid suspicion and detection by postal inspectors. She paid him thousands of dollars in bribes for the use of the mail box which is the subject of a forfeiture portion of the indictment that the mayor is contesting.
Now that Blas is convicted because of his guilty plea, the federal government is seeking forfeiture of $11,700 in proceeds he received. The former mayor admitted today that he did receive some of that money but will be contesting some of the dollar amounts contained in their forfeiture.
According to the FBI, their investigation included wire taps of phone calls from Brenda Kinian to Blas in which Mr. Blas "did knowingly and intentionally use, and cause to be used a facility (cell phone) in interstate commerce... with the intent to promote, manage, establish, carry on and facilitate the promotion, management, establishing and carrying on of bribery.
During testimony at a prior hearing in Blas’ case, FBI officials testified that Former DOC Deputy Director and former Marshal Joey Terlaje was at a sex party hosted by his close friend Jesse Blas, when Mr. Terlaje witnessed Mr. Blas punch a woman hard in the face, drag her into his home, and confine her against her will. This woman is a Federal Bureau of Investigation confidential source of information unrelated to Brenda Kinian and her role in the case. According to testimony provided by FBI Special Agent Rafael Fernandez, this woman revealed the presence and participation of Mr. Terlaje, Mr. Blas, and other court officials. The other people at the party were other women who had active warrants. The CI presented voice recordings to the FBI, where Mr. Fernandez describes Mr. Blas apologizing to the woman for assaulting and confining her on that occasion.
Joey Terlaje resigned shortly after he was mentioned by the FBI during court proceedings into the public corruption case of Jesse Blas.
Following today’s hearing, Blas Defense Attorney Joseph Razzano was swarmed by reporters asking for additional information about his client’s guilty.
Kandit News asked Attorney Razzano whether Blas would be testifying against Terlaje. While he was factually correct when he said that there is no mention of cooperation in the plea agreement, there is a section acknowledging that Jesse Blas will be eligible for a “downward departure” in his sentencing, meaning less prison time, should the US Attorney want to request that for any reason. This was a very carefully crafted plea agreement most likely due to the attorneys on both sides knowing the public would have access. Although not stated in the agreement, in federal court cases, the US Attorney often will make a motion for a downward departure in the sentencing guidelines due to a defendants “substantial assistance” to the government.
So although the Blas Plea Agreement does not state he will testify against anyone, most federal plea agreements do not include that specific language. Instead there is a clause – much like contained in the Blas Plea Agreement – that acknowledges that the US Attorney may seek a lighter sentence for Blas. They do that when assistance and cooperation is given. Further, a footnote in the Plea Agreement indicates that his plea can be revoked by the feds should he obstruct justice in anyway.
The Pre-Sentence Report on Jesse Blas is due on March 20 of this year. Then he will appear in court again on May 4th for further proceedings prior to his sentencing.