Guam – Nearly 10 months after his January arrest, the Guam Attorney General has finally sought and received an indictment against Kenrick O. Gajo.
The indictment was handed down by a Superior Court Grand Jury last Friday, November 12, but was just announced today by the Guam Attorney General’s Office.
The indictment charges Gajo with 2 counts of “Possession with Intent To Distribute A Schedule II controlled Substance (As a 1st Degree Felony).” Gajo faces a maximum of twenty (20) years in jail for each count if convicted. He is scheduled to appear for arraignment on those charges next Monday, December 22 at 10 am in Superior Court.
Gajo was arrested at his Barrigada Body Shop on January 13th of this year on charges of selling crystal methamphetamine, the drug known as “ice.” But formal charges in court were never brought against him, until now.
It is unclear why the Guam AG waited so long before seeking the indictment. An earlier plea agreement is not mentioned and the charges and penalties he now faces are far more severe than what he had earlier agreed to plead guilty to, but never did, because the plea deal was never submitted for approval to a Judge.
That plea agreement was reached back on January 14th. Defense Attorney Curtis Van de Veld was representing Gajo at that time [Gajo is now represented by Attorney David Lujan]. Van de Veld negotiated the terms of the deal with the AG’s Chief Prosecuting Attorney Phil Tyndingco. All 3 signed the plea agreement, but that’s as far as it went.
That plea agreement would have allowed Gajo to plead guilty only to a charge of possession of “ice” as a third degree felony. And he would not have had to spend any time in jail. Gajo now faces up to 40 years behind bars.
The wisdom of that plea agreement has been questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karon Johnson who has called it illegal.
Johnson has already taken control of about $137-thousand in cash that GPD seized during the raid on Gajo’s Body Shop. And she is still trying to get back the $30-thousand in cash paid to Van de Veld for the plea agreement he negotiated for Gajo.
All of that money is alleged to be drug proceeds. And all of it Gajo pulled out of a knapsack that was hidden inside a stack of tires at Gajo’s Body Shop. Gajo turned the cash over to police at 2 am in the morning, only after he had signed the plea agreement.
During the exchanges between Van de Veld and Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnson over the $30-thousand dollar legal fee Van de Veld was paid, Van de Veld claimed that Guam Police investigators told him the night of the drug raid, that they wanted Gajo’s cooperation “concerning GPD officers involved in the distribution of drugs.”
That plea agreement also revealed that Gajo would co-operate with police by revealing the names of those who supplied him with the crystal meth; and he would tell what he knows about the 1998 murder of a woman whose body was found off the back road to Andersen. Gajo also agreed to disclose the location of “approximately $140,000 to $160,000 cash or more related to his involvement with the distribution” of ice.Chief Prosecutor Tydingco Said Feds Don’t Need to be Called “This Is Our Matter”
But Van de Veld has not turned over the $30-thousand to the feds arguing he has a valid plea agreement for and a right to keep the $30-thousand dollar payment he received for negotiating that plea agreement.
Among the legal arguments Van de Veld has made to the Feds’ forfeiture motion is that all acts of the Guam Attorney General are, in turn, acts of the Federal Government itself because Guam “is in essence an instrumentality of the Federal Government.” Van de Veld also claims that he is an “innocent owner” of the funds and property belonging to “innocent owners” is not subject to forfeiture. And the attorney argues that Guam has a “forfeiture statutory scheme” under which “GovGuam has the right to seize and forfeit to itself all drug proceeds in Guam.”
In addition, Van De Veld states in his response that he asked Chief Prosecutor “Tydingco if we needed federal approval of the agreement and he [Tydingco] stated, ‘No this is our matter.'”
Van De Veld has told PNC News ” I did everything that I possibly could to make sure that what occurred was done correctly.” He has also told us that the money has now been spent and he doesn’t have it anymore.
And, Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnson is not the only one seeking the $30-thousand paid to Van de Veld.
On March 1st Gajo replaced Van de Veld as Counsel and hired Attorney David Lujan. Lujan sent a letter dated March 1st demanding that Van de Veld turn over the $30-thousand to him and instructed Van de Veld to have no further contact with Gajo.
Van de Veld states in his forfeiture response that he didn’t give Lujan the $30-thousand either.
And, on the same day that Van de Veld received the demand from Lujan, Van de Veld says he got a call from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Strand and Karon Johnson who wanted to meet with Gajo “under his [Van de Veld’s] ‘so called Plea Agreement.'”