Las Vegas hearing on Lapid wife’s case postponed again
LOS ANGELES—The preliminary hearing on a cash smuggling case against the wife of Senator Lito Lapid has been postponed for the second time to give her lawyers more time to prepare her defense.
United States magistrate Judge Peggy Leen has granted the request of Marissa Lapid’s lawyers to reschedule the April 9 hearing at the Nevada district courthouse to July 9 to give them more time “to conduct legal research and factual investigation.”
The US government has placed a lien on Lapid’s Las Vegas property to cover her $500,000 bail. Her movements have been restricted to Clark County and she wears an ankle bracelet equipped with a location monitor, according to one of her lawyers, Eliot Krieger.
The request for the postponement of the hearing was signed by Krieger and Michael Mascarello, Lapid’s lawyers, as well as US Attorney Daniel Bogden and Assistant US Attorney Michael Chu.
“Once these investigations are completed, the parties will conduct negotiations that may resolve this case and save judicial resources,” said a court order signed by Leen on March 29.
“There is no rush to get it to indictment,” Krieger told the Inquirer after his first request to postpone the hearing was granted in February this year.
Lapid was held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Las Vegas for three days after she was arrested on Jan. 15 for allegedly smuggling $40,000 into the US on Nov. 27, 2010.
Court papers obtained by the Inquirer showed that ICE special agent Albert Giangregorio, of the agency’s Money Laundering Asset Removal Group, stated in an affidavit that Lapid “knowingly concealed $40,000” when she arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Nov. 27, 2010.
Lapid, a permanent resident or green card holder, had declared in the US Customs and Border Protection form that she was carrying $10,000 and P10,000 (equivalent to $225), Giangregorio related in his affidavit. After searching her luggage, ICE agents found $40,000 hidden in two socks and a cloth bag hidden in the lining, he added.
US federal law requires arriving passengers to declare any currency or monetary instrument totaling $10,000 or more. Violators are fined a maximum of $500,000 and the money recovered is confiscated by the US government.
Bulk cash smuggling is also punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, according to a source from Homeland Security.
‘For my house’
Court documents showed that when Marissa was questioned by customs officials about the undeclared money, she said “I’m sorry…it’s for my house.”
But according to Senator Lapid, his wife intended to use the money for medical expenses, explaining that she had gone to the US to seek treatment for a bone ailment.
When asked about the conflicting statements, Krieger said what was more relevant to the case was that Mrs. Lapid willingly returned to the US to comply with “the invitation of Homeland Security to deal with the issue.”
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