By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) A review of Mandana Drug Task Force search warrants between 2017 and 2018 show that its officers were signing confiscated money, drugs, cars, electronics, and other property they seized to each other. In the early days of the task force in 2017, evidence custody sheets show a chain of custody leading to the Hagatna evidence locker. By 2018, the chain of custody ended with the officers themselves.
In one of the custody sheets, Guam Police Officer Jimmy Manglona signed over to Officer Jeremiah DeChavez multiple units of currency, none of which had specific amounts or denominations for each unit transferred.
Kandit last month asked Chief of Police Stephen Ignacio in an interview if an inventory of evidence against the custody sheets is routinely conducted and what protocols exist for the keeping of evidence by the Guam Police Department. Mr. Ignacio said his agency would get back to us with the information. Today we followed up with his office; an answer is yet to be available. Important to note is that Mr. Ignacio was not the chief of police at the time these documents were effectuated; Joseph I. Cruz was.
At the start of 2017, former Gov. Eddie Calvo authorized cross-jurisdiction efforts among local and federal law enforcement agencies to interdict drugs through the creation of the Mandana Drug Task Force by Executive Order 2017-01. Mr. Cruz began pulling officers from within GPD and from other law enforcement agencies into the task force. The cross jurisdiction availed some of the officers of a federal designation through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. They were called "Task Force Officers," and as such had access to U.S. DEA evidence control sheets, which sometimes appear in the inventory and chain of custody of evidence attached to the return of executed warrants to the Superior Court judge, who signed the search warrants.
In the beginning of the task force's operations, evidence obtained from drug raids was promptly confiscated and surrendered to GPD's crime lab. The "Evidence/property custody" receipts have meticulous descriptions of contraband and fruits of crimes in question. For instance, following the early morning raid of a Dededo home on March 9, 2017, Task Force Officer (TFO) Keane Pangelinan described the confiscation of $15,462 in U.S. currency "In denominations of: $100.00 dollar bills (80 each), $50.00 dollar bills (58 each), $20.00 dollar bills (215 each), $10.00 dollar bills (26 each), $1.00 dollar bills (2 each). Mr. Pangelinan even laid out the currency and took photos of every bill and attached these copies to the return of warrant.
In the same raid, the currency number identifying each note totaling $1,070.00 was detailed in the custody receipt.
For the most part, the level of description and the chain of custody of evidence clearly shows that drugs, money, and property that are confiscated are sent to the Hagatna evidence locker or to the crime lab throughout 2017.
However, by February of 2018, a paragraph is added to the search warrants that several Superior Court judges sign. This paragraph allows the task force officers to transfer property and drugs seized to federal officers who are part of the raids for "testing and storage."
In most of the raids conducted in these cases we were able to examine, U.S. DEA officers were not involved, except for the task force officers, who actually were GPD, Customs, and port police officers assigned to the task force. Following an early morning raid of a Mangilao home February 14, 2018, TFO Kylie Maurer submitted three custody receipts indicating in typewritten words that the evidence and property contained in those receipts were forwarded to the Hagatna evidence locker, though no person signs for those receipts.
Following that same raid, TFO Peter Paulino submits a receipt for the confiscation of $4,272, but no indication that the money was surrendered anywhere. The trail ends with him.
The task force officers questioned one person present at the Mangilao house that was raided and obtained information that led to the application for and approval of a warrant for a raid in Chalan Pago later that day. Following that raid, TFO Keane Pangelinan confiscated $329 and did not surrender the money anywhere, according to the return of warrant. No other evidence was found in that raid, which was authorized in a "no-knock" warrant by Judge Vernon Perez. Mr. Pangelinan was the affiant in the application for the search warrant and had attested to Judge Perez that probable cause existed for the search and seizure of the money.
Following a May raid, multiple task force officers were involved in the transfer of tens of thousands of dollars, a revolver, and more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. The only property signed by an officer accepting it into the Hagatna evidence locker was the revolver. TFO J.G. Dizon confiscated $20,430 and did not surrender the money, according to the evidence receipt. TFO Sang To's evidence receipt indicates in typewritten words that the property he seized was turned over to the Hagatna evidence locker, but with no one's signature accepting the surrender. TFO Eugene Igros confiscated 24 grams of meth and 20 grams of marijuana and did not surrender the drugs; neither did TFO J.J. Techaira, who confiscated 34 grams of meth. Mr. Pangelinan, who applied for the warrant in that case, confiscated and did not surrender $300. Ms. Maurer confiscated and did not surrender $5,359 in cash, and several debit cards belonging to the defendant in that case.
A witness following that raid told Kandit News that Ms. Maurer offered to purchase McDonald's for herself and the witness using one of the confiscated debit cards, and the purchase actually was made.
On August 10, 2018, TFO Jimmy Manglona signed over to TFO Jeremiah Chavez, both GPD officers, "an undetermined amount of U.S. currency pending an official count." The receipt issued in this case was written from a U.S. Department of Justice - Drug Enforcement Agency form. In this same raid, Mr. Manglona signs over to Mr. DeChavez multiple boxes of Louis Vuitton and Hermes bags valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. The drug evidence was confiscated by other task force officers and never surrendered to the Hagatna evidence locker; nor do any receipts show the forfeiture of the seized items to the U.S. DEA. The application for that search warrant was by TFO Christopher Champion, who has been accused of numerous criminal violations and the violations of Constitutional and civil rights of a number of defendants and victims.
The warrant leading to the confiscation of eight units of uncounted currency was applied for by TFO Joseph Aguon, who was the officer seen assaulting a cuffed defendant in a viral video recently.