Lito Lapid stays in PH after wife's sentencing

Posted at 02/07/13 9:30 AM

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga –  Sen. Lito Lapid is not yet about to fly to the US to comfort his wife Marissa, who was found guilty by the Nevada District Court last Monday of dollar smuggling and conspiracy to structure her bank deposits to avoid being detected by the US federal government.

Filmer Abrajano, Lapid’s chief of staff, said the senator’s camp prefers not to issue any statement on the development, but he confirmed the details that came out in the Philippine STAR yesterday.

“It’s all there (The STAR story). We would rather not comment and it’s better to forward any question to (Marissa’s) lawyer in the US,” Abrajano said in a telephone interview.

He said Lapid will still attend the Senate sessions.

The Senate is slated to adjourn on Feb. 9 and resume on June 5.

Lapid, other members of his family, and spokesperson Alex Marcelino could not be reached for comment.

Marissa has been wearing an electronic monitoring anklet and was told to limit her movements within Nevada, as imposed by US District Court Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen of Las Vegas.

She was arrested on Nov. 27, 2010 upon arriving at the McCarran International Airport for smuggling $40,000 and P10,000.

US law requires foreigners to declare upon arrival on US airports and sea ports cash worth over $10,000 they are carrying,

While Marissa declared the $10,000 cash she carried, officials at the airport found a total of $40,000 cash hidden in socks in her luggage, aside from the P10,000.

The court, however, allowed her to go back to the Philippines last Christmas, with her real estate property in Nevada as lien.

Last Monday, the US court sentenced her to three years of probation, including five months home confinement, a $40,000 fine, and a forfeiture of $159,700 for her guilty plea to cash smuggling and conspiracy to structure money transactions, state district court lawyer Daniel Bogdon’s spokesperson Natalie Collins said in a statement.

Marissa is likely to be deported after serving her sentence.

The Nevada court said that apart from the dollar-smuggling incident, Mrs. Lapid was also found to have  “knowingly and willfully” conspired with other known and unknown persons to commit the crime of restructuring transactions to evade the US government requirement’s for banks to report deposits worth more than $10,000 in a single transaction.

Structuring deposits involves separation of a single deposit into several deposits to avoid being included in currency transaction reports by US banks. Such reports have been required since 1996 by the federal government and cover deposits worth the “reporting threshold” of $10,000 or above in a single transaction.

Mrs. Lapid will ‘fully cooperate’

Marissa’s private defense lawyer said on Tuesday that “there was no evidence that any of the money involved in the case was improperly obtained – it was simply a failure to properly report the money.”

“Mrs. Lapid pled to two counts that are reporting violations. Yesterday, she received just three years probation for these violations,” Eliot Krieger, a partner in the California-based Jarvis, Krieger and Sullivan law offices, told The STAR in an email.

When pressed for comment where Marissa’s money could have come from, Krieger, a former assistant attorney with the US Department of Justice, did not respond.

In the plea agreement that she signed, Marissa agreed to “cooperate fully” if requested by the United States to provide complete and truthful information and testimony concerning her knowledge of all other persons who are committing or have committed offenses against the US if there is an investigation and prosecution of these persons.

She also promised to “promptly turn over to the US or other enforcement authorities or direct such law enforcement authorities to any and all evidence of crime; all contraband and proceeds of crime; and all assets traceable to such proceeds of crime.”– With Joseph Lariosa