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January 14, 2021Hagatna, GU, United StatesProfessional Responsibility

ICE investigation lands former mayor in prison for extortion

HAGATNA, Guam – Jesse Mendiola Blas, a former mayor of Yona, Guam, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 37 months in prison for Extortion Under Color of Official Right.

The case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“Public corruption has far reaching effects on the day to day lives of everyone in society,” said John F. Tobon, Special Agent in Charge for HSI in Guam, Hawaii and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. “Identifying acts of corruption, the proceeds of these acts and bringing those responsible to justice is a top priority for HSI. We will continue to work tirelessly in order to root out corruption.”

Blas, 58, of Yona, was also ordered by the court to three years of supervision following his release from prison, 100 hours of community service, a mandatory $100 special assessment fee and a forfeiture money judgment of $11,700.

Beginning in November 2018, Blas used his position as Mayor of Yona to accept cash bribes from a confidential informant (CI), who posed as a drug trafficker to obtain United States Postal Service cluster box units (CBU). The CBUs are offered free to residents for the lawful receipt of mail. Blas agreed to provide a mailbox to the CI to enable drug traffickers to securely receive packages of methamphetamine through the U.S. mail system.

Continual access to the mailbox was conditioned upon sharing proceeds from the drug packages with Blas. During the scheme, he received $11,700 for the use of a single mailbox. Blas also offered to sell a second mailbox to the CI for $15,000 and to change the assigned box each week to avoid interception of the drug packages by law enforcement. When the CI stopped making payments, Blas asked for $8,000 more and threatened to shut down the mailbox. Blas was subsequently arrested in September 2019.

“We entrust our elected officials with the responsibility to act in the best interests of the public,” said Shawn N. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). “Community safety is among their basic duties. This case exposed a mayor acting in his own self-interest to the potential detriment of an entire island. I commend the hard work by our agency partners that brought Mr. Blas to justice. The sentence imposed by the Court further demonstrates that officials who engage in criminal conduct will be held accountable.”

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the CNMI.