US gov't keeping an eye on Garcia sons

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 29 2011 08:06 AM | Updated as of Sep 29 2011 09:07 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The US government is keeping an eye on the two sons of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia who were convicted of cash smuggling late last year.

Documents provided by the US Department of Justice to The STAR showed the activities and whereabouts of Juan Paulo Garcia, 30, of Pontiac, Michigan and Ian Carl Garcia, 33, of Las Vegas, Nevada are still being monitored.

Even after being sentenced to “time served” in November 2010, the brothers are still required by the US District Court of the Northern District of California to report regularly to a probation officer until November 2012.

Both are considered to be “on supervised release for a term of two years,” according to the documents, which means they are still under parole.

Copies of the separate but similarly worded judgments issued by then Senior US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on Nov. 29, 2010 showed the Garcia brothers are not even allowed to leave town during the period without permission.

Lawyer Jack Gillund of the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) in Northern California provided the documents.

“The defendant shall not leave the judicial district without permission of the court or probation officer,” the first rule on the standard conditions of their supervised release from the US Bureau of Prisons stated.

“The defendant shall report to the probation officer, and shall submit a truthful and complete written report within the first five days of each month,” the US court’s order said.

Garcia’s sons, for the remaining 14 months of their supervised release from jail, are directed to “work regularly at a lawful occupation, unless excused by the probation officer for schooling, training, or other acceptable reasons” and “notify the probation officer at least 10 days prior to any change in residence or employment.”

Among other restrictions, the Garcia brothers were even ordered to refrain from drinking excessively and are not allowed to take any drugs “except those prescribed by a physician.” And since their whereabouts and activities are still being monitored, the US court ordered the Garcia brothers to allow a probation officer to see them anytime.

Apart from the standard conditions, their release from jail following their conviction and sentencing late last year also has special conditions, including being barred from owning or possessing guns and other dangerous weapons.

“The defendant must obtain prior approval of the court for travel outside the United States,” read the US court’s order, which primarily warns them against committing “another federal, state or local crime.”

Written confessions

The two brothers were indicted on Dec. 9, 2008 for bulk cash smuggling and conspiracy charges, or five years after they were caught in February 2009 carrying $100,000 cash into the US from Manila by concealing the money in their luggage.

The case became controversial when Garcia’s wife Clarita made “written confessions” telling US Customs officers that her husband is a Philippine general who receives gifts, commissions, and kickbacks from military suppliers and contractors, which is the reason why her sons were carrying such a huge amount of cash.

The brothers entered into what may be considered as a plea bargaining agreement with the USAO in September 2010 wherein they agreed to plead guilty to the bulk cash smuggling charge.

The brothers agreed to forfeit the $100,000 to the US government and in exchange, the US agreed to dismiss the remaining charges of conspiracy and making false statements to authorities against them and recommend a sentence of time served.

Records showed the Garcia brothers spent approximately 100 days in custody and a year and a half on electronic monitoring when they were made to wear ankle bracelets.

The USAO headed by Melinda Haag considered the prosecution of Juan Paulo and Ian Carl as a success, which was a result of an international investigation with the Philippine Office of the Ombudsman, then headed by Merceditas Gutierrez.

“This prosecution demonstrates our determination to combat and deter bulk cash smuggling, which is often a means of moving ill-gotten gains into the United States. We applaud the coordination and dedication of the many agencies, including those in the Philippines, that joined forces to investigate this case,” Haag said after Garcia’s sons pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling.

Juan Paulo and Ian Carl, along with their mother and their youngest brother Timothy Mark, 27, are all facing criminal charges before the Sandiganbayan as they are named co-defendants of their father in a P303-million plunder case.

Efforts to reverse

Last year, Garcia also entered into a controversial plea bargaining agreement with the Ombudsman, a deal which Malacañang, through the Office of the Solicitor General and newly installed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, is now trying to reverse.

Under the deal, Garcia would surrender to the government P135.4 million of his alleged unexplained wealth, including a $765,000 condominium unit in Trump Park Avenue, New York which is roughly worth around P43.1 million.

On May 9, 2011, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division approved the plea bargaining agreement in a lengthy ruling that also discussed how the prosecution admitted it had a weak case against the former general because of a defective complaint.

In asking the Sandiganbayan to junk the Garcia plea-bargaining deal, Ombudsman Morales said she doubts there was even a serious effort to extradite Clarita and her two sons.

Sources revealed the extradition proceedings against Garcia’s wife and sons were indeed pursued through the DOJ.

They said extradition hearings were or are being held in three different US states that had jurisdiction over Clarita, Juan Paulo, Ian Carl, and Timothy Mark.

In her position paper, Morales said the written confessions or admissions made by Garcia’s wife to US authorities could be used as evidence against the husband only if the wife and children were extradited.

The Sandiganbayan had already ruled that the letters do not have probative value because the contents of the same remain hearsay, as the wife was not presented in court to testify while Garcia was not accorded the chance to cross-examine his wife.

The Sandiganbayan is expected to rule on the remaining pleadings that is preventing it from sentencing Garcia for direct bribery and facilitating money laundering, the lesser crimes that he pleaded guilty to in December last year in accordance with his plea bargaining agreement.

Apart from Morales’ position paper, the anti-graft court has no other issues to address other than a motion for reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, which is asking for the reversal of a May 9, 2011 ruling that denied their motion for intervention.

The Sandiganbayan yesterday notified Morales that a clarificatory hearing on the issues she raised would be held on next Monday.