Ombudsman charges own graft investigator, cousin for P3M extortion try

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2017 05:46 PM

Ombudsman files criminal charges against Associate Graft Investigation Officer III Leonardo Nicolas Jr. and his cousin, Labor Arbiter Isagani Laurence Nicolas, after they were caught red-handed in an entrapment operation extorting money from Pangasinan officials. From the Office of the Ombudsman

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges against its own graft investigator and his labor arbiter cousin for an extortion attempt on local officials of Pangasinan.

Charged were Associate Graft Investigation Officer III Leonardo Nicolas Jr. and his cousin, Labor Arbiter Isagani Laurence Nicolas of the National Labor Relations Commission- Dagupan City.

The Ombudsman said bribery charges were filed against the two at the Sandiganbayan while charges for the violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees were filed before the Municipal Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasinan. 

The two were caught red-handed receiving marked money in a joint entrapment operation of the Ombudsman and the National Bureau of Investigation in a resort in Lingayen last month. 

According to the Ombudsman, Leonardo Nicolas was under surveillance based on a tip that he was trying to extort P3 million from local officials by contacting Pangasinan Legal Officer Geraldine Baniqued. 

During the meeting between Nicolas and Baniqued, Nicolas allegedly asked for P1.3 million in exchange for the dropping of supposed complaints against Bugallon Mayor Jumel Anthony Espino. 

Isagani Lawrence Nicolas meanwhile purportedly contacted the provincial accountant of Pangasinan and eventually presented to Pangasinan officials fake documents on three bogus Ombudsman cases. 

Leonardo Nicolas allegedly offered during the meeting that he could facilitate the dismissal of the cases for P1 million each. 

“That the respondents were a team in their attempt at extortion is further proven by their presence during the pre-arranged meeting when the P3 million was supposed to change hands,” the Ombudsman said. 

During the entrapment operation, Leonardo Nicolas was caught with a bogus report supposedly issued by the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office, which he presented in exchange for P3 million.

Aside from charges filed against the two government officials, they were also ordered suspended for six months.