Federal Grand Jury Indicts Three for Poaching Threatened Mariana Fruit Bats
Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands states that last week, a federal grand jury indicted Albert Taitano, Adrian Mendiola, and David Santos for violations of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act. The violations occurred on the island of Rota, in the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, and relate to poaching incidents in 2008 wherein two of the few remaining breeding colonies of the Mariana fruit bat were decimated by hunters using twelve-gauge and .410 shotguns.
U.S. Attorney Limtiaco said "the Mariana fruit bat, or 'fanihi,' is an important species not just to our islands' ecology, but to the local island culture." She went on to say "the species belongs not just to the people of this generation, but to future generations as well, and it is important that we allow them to repopulate and thrive."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and officers of the C.N.M.I. Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife are leading the investigation, with assistance from the C.N.M.I. Department of Public Safety; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Coastguard; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and the National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. Assistant United States Attorney Eric O'Malley is prosecuting the case.
The public is reminded that an indictment is only an allegation, and that the defendants are presumed innocent until and if they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.