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Sen. Lito Lapid is flanked by his wife Marissa and their son Mark in an undated photo.


ANGELES CITY — The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid was arrested shortly after her landing in Las Vegas on Jan. 15 in connection with the dollar smuggling charges filed against her after she was accosted at the international airport there last November.

Lapid confirmed that his wife Marissa was arrested but she was released on bail.

She will, however, remain in Las Vegas pending the resolution of the case involving the alleged smuggling of $50,000 in cash last November.

He said an American lawyer is now assisting Marissa.

“I have also sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs to find out what really happened,” he said, adding that he has coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in Manila for clarification.

Reports from the U.S. said agents of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Marissa Lapid at the Las Vegas International Airport on Jan. 15.

Marissa’s arrest arose from a U.S. federal warrant issued against her on Jan. 5, 2012 in connection with her earlier arrest on Nov. 27 last year for the dollar smuggling attempt.

U.S. authorities filed an affidavit that said Marissa was caught after she declared to Customs personnel at the Las Vegas airport that she had in her possession only $10,000.

A search of her luggage, however, yielded two socks containing $10,000 each and another $20,000 was recovered inside a cloth bag.

Under U.S. laws, anyone carrying more than $10,000 cash should fill out Customs Form 4790 and submit it to Customs authorities at the point of entry or departure.

The possessor must also be prepared to prove legitimate ownership of the cash.

U.S. Customs officials at the Las Vegas airport reportedly seized the $50,000 cash pending investigation of the case.

Apparently, Marissa was released without posting bail and no charges were filed against her pending the investigation.

Lawyer Filmer Abrajano, Lapid’s chief of staff, said that the information they had received regarding Marissa was still sketchy and he could not say why she was released last November.

Abrajano said that Marissa spent Christmas here in the Philippines.

He said Marissa was nabbed when she returned to Las Vegas on Jan. 15.

She was apparently not aware that a case had already been filed against her.

Abrajano declined to give other details upon the instruction of Marissa’s American lawyer in Las Vegas.

Lapid said that he was informed that a hearing on the case has been set on Feb. 7.

Marissa could be sentenced up to five years in jail, fined up to $250,000, and made to forfeit the $50,000 cash recovered from her if she is convicted of the offense.

The criminal complaint against Marissa cited violation of U.S. laws, regardless of whether or not the $50,000 was acquired legally.

After a court appearance, Marissa was allowed to post bail.

The court reportedly ordered Marissa to surrender her passport, restrict her travel to only within Clark County, Nevada unless the pretrial services office of the court gives her permission to leave.

The court also ordered her to wear an ankle bracelet monitoring device.

Marissa is the mother of former Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid, now the general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority under the Department of Tourism.

Lapid and Marissa have four children, with Mark being the youngest.

Personnel at Mark’s tourism office in Manila said their boss left for the U.S. sometime last week with the permission of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. and that he is on leave without pay.

Lapid said that Mark is in the U.S. to arrange for his studies at Stanford University.

Similar dollar smuggling charges were filed against two sons of former military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia who were arrested at the San Francisco airport after they tried to smuggle $100,000 cash in 2003.

Garcia’s sons Juan Paulo and Ian Carl were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, and one count of bulk cash smuggling.

Juan Paulo also faced charges of failing to file a report on the import of monetary instruments and one count of making false statements to a government agency.

Garcia is now detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after a military court martial found him guilty of misdeclaring his assets and hiding his status as permanent U.S. resident while still in active service.

Garcia, his wife and three sons, including Juan Paulo and Ian Carl, were also charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing P303.27 million in unexplained wealth during the former comptroller’s active military service.

Wife: Sorry, I screwed up

The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid reportedly apologized repeatedly to U.S. authorities following her arrest in Las Vegas last year for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash.

“I’m sorry, it’s for my house,” U.S. authorities quoted Marissa Lapid as saying.

“I screwed up.”

Lapid, for his part, said in a statement, “My wife can defend herself.”

The senator said his wife has submitted herself to the jurisdiction of a U.S. court, which has authority over the case.

“This is sad, but my wife is ready to answer all the issues related to the incident. A lawyer is assisting her,” Lapid’s statement, which was in Filipino, read.

He added that they are waiting for details from Marissa’s lawyer.

Lapid, who attended the seventh day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona Thursday, confirmed the arrest of his wife Wednesday, adding that she had posted bail.

Lapid’s spokesman Alex Marcelino has denied claims that Marissa went to Las Vegas to gamble.

“She and the senator have never gambled. They are never known to be fond of any form of gambling,” Marcelino told the Philippine Star.

Marcelino said he was unaware why Marissa had been flying to Las Vegas recently, except that she was working on the citizenship of her grandchildren by daughter Mitchi who were born in the U.S.

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