Lapid's wife arrested in US for smuggling $50,000

By Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 26 2012 07:02 AM | Updated as of Jan 26 2012 07:12 PM

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid was arrested shortly after her landing in Las Vegas last Jan. 15 in connection with the dollar smuggling charges filed against her after she was accosted at the international airport there last November.

Senator Lapid confirmed yesterday that his wife Marissa was arrested but she was released on bail. She will, however, remain in Las Vegas pending the resolution of the case involving the alleged smuggling of $50,000 in cash last November.

He said an American lawyer is now assisting Marissa.

“I have also sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs to find out what really happened,he said, adding that he has coordinated with the US embassy in Manila for clarification.

Reports from the US said agents of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Marissa Lapid at the Las Vegas International Airport last Jan. 15.

Marissa’s arrest arose from a US federal warrant issued against her on Jan. 5, 2012 in connection with her earlier arrest on Nov. 27 last year for the dollar smuggling attempt.

US authorities filed an affidavit that said Marissa was caught after she declared to Customs personnel at the Las Vegas airport that she had in her possession only $10,000.

A search of her luggage, however, yielded two socks containing $10,000 each and another $20,000 was recovered inside a cloth bag.

Under US laws, anyone carrying more than $10,000 cash should fill out Customs Form 4790 and submit it to Customs authorities at the point of entry or departure. The possessor must also be prepared to prove legitimate ownership of the cash.

US Customs officials at the Las Vegas airport reportedly seized the $50,000 cash pending investigation of the case.

Apparently, Marissa was released without posting bail and no charges were filed against her pending the investigation.

Lawyer Filmer Abrajano, Sen. Lapid’s chief of staff, said that the information they had received regarding Marissa was still sketchy and he could not say why she was released last November.

Abrajano said that Marissa spent Christmas here in the Philippines.

He said Marissa was nabbed when she returned to Las Vegas last Jan. 15. She was apparently not aware that a case had already been filed against her.

Abrajano declined to give other details upon the instruction of Marissa’s American lawyer in Las Vegas.

Sen. Lapid said that he was informed that a hearing on the case has been set on Feb. 7.

Marissa could be sentenced up to five years in jail, fined up to $250,000, and made to forfeit the $50,000 cash recovered from her if she is convicted of the offense.

The criminal complaint against Marissa cited violation of US laws, regardless of whether or not the $50,000 was acquired legally.

After a court appearance, Marissa was allowed to post bail.

The court reportedly ordered Marissa to surrender her passport, restrict her travel to only within Clark County, Nevada unless the pretrial services office of the court gives her permission to leave.

The court also ordered her to wear an ankle bracelet monitoring device.

Marissa is the mother of former Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid, now the general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority under the Department of Tourism.

Sen. Lapid and Marissa have four children, with Mark being the youngest.

Personnel at Mark’s tourism office in Manila said their boss left for the US sometime last week with the permission of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. and that he is on leave without pay.

Sen. Lapid said that Mark is in the US to arrange for his studies at Stanford University.

Similar dollar smuggling charges were filed against two sons of former military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia who were arrested at the San Francisco airport after they tried to smuggle $100,000 cash in 2003.

Garcia’s sons Juan Paulo and Ian Carl were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, and one count of bulk cash smuggling.

Juan Paulo also faced charges of failing to file a report on the import of monetary instruments and one count of making false statements to a government agency.

Gen. Garcia is now detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after a military court martial found him guilty of misdeclaring his assets and hiding his status as permanent US resident while still in active service.

Garcia, his wife and three sons, including Juan Paulo and Ian Carl, were also charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing P303.27 million in unexplained wealth during the former comptroller’s active military service.