In what appears to be a scam conducted on the island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the couple in the photos below arrived on Saipan in October, stayed at Coral Ocean Point and then the Hyatt between October 20 and October 23.
During that time, the couple, who went by the name Jim and Yao, paid for tours, skydiving and scuba diving using what now appears to be several different stolen credit card numbers. The scam was discovered when, 30 days later, charges made to these cards by local as well as online vendors were disputed as “unauthorized” by the legitimate card holders.
Vendors within the CNMI are cautioned to be wary of such scams, to be mindful to take all security precautions particularly for online sales, and to note these individuals in particular. (Note: in such cases, the charges are reversed–debited from the local vendor account– and the local vendors lose out) .This may indicate the early stages of a pattern of young travelers spending lavishly using stolen credit cards.)
“Jim” presented himself as a young tech entrepreneur along with his girlfriend “Yao” and spent lavishly on accommodations and activities on Saipan.
“We cannot chase him away. Where will he go?”
Randy’s Typhoon Yutu Story
It was four days after Typhoon Yutu tore through the islands of Saipan and Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Joeten Supermarket in Susupe, Saipan had just re-opened to the public, and so, it would be the first time I would resume my morning routine of checking the shelves for fruits and vegetables.
I approached the worker dutifully stocking the shelves in the produce department of Joeten Supermarket. His name is Randy Vicente. Originally from Cavite, Philippines, Randy has had only this one employer in his twenty-five years on the island. And, in all the years I’ve lived on Saipan and shopped there, Randy has always been quite friendly, always offering a bubbly “Good morning, Mr. Walt!” offering information on upcoming sales, asking if there was anything he could help with, and making this mundane experience quite pleasant. Today was no different in that regard. However, I could tell something was different. The area around his eyes had the telltale darkness and showed the strain of someone who hadn’t slept in days.
“So, what’s your situation?” I asked him.
“Oh, me? I’m homeless!” he replied, and despite the direness of what he had just said, he delivered it with the same bubbliness and smile as if he were greeting me on a normal day. “My roof is gone, and my apartment is destroyed,” he added.
“So..So, where are you staying?”
“Nowhere,” he replied. “For the past four nights, I’ve been sleeping in the front lobby of World Resort.”
(In this video, I asked Randy if the hotel staff and security gave him a hard time while he was in the lobby. He said no, but he overheard them saying “I cannot chase him away…where will he go?”)
“Did you try sleeping in a shelter?” I suggested.
“What shelter?” he asked.
I had heard from another worker that Saipan Community Church had a shelter. I told Randy about it, and he confirmed that he, too, had heard about it just that same morning, and would be giving it a try that evening after work.
“What about your stuff?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s still there.”
“You mean in the apartment?”
During the storm, as Yutu’s Category Five winds increased in intensity, Randy realized his apartment would likely not withstand the pounding and so he sought refuge and rode out the storm in the Nauru Building close by. He returned to find his room destroyed.
It saddened me to realize that here he was showing up for work for his 6am to 1pm shift, as he’d done for 25 years, spending precious daylight hours unloading boxes, stocking shelves and helping customers, while his own personal belongings were sitting in a roofless single room with only three and a half walls exposed to the elements, and with nowhere to return to shower and get a good night’s sleep. I thought about the indignity and mental strain of sitting in a hotel lobby hour after hour, night after night, while hotel staff and security guards passed by knowing you weren’t a guest.
The thought also crossed my mind that what was needed was some sort of free storage facility for typhoon victims.
With no tourists arriving these days, many of the hotels are offering a local rate of about $70-$80/night. It’s a small thing, but I’d like to provide Randy–and anyone among the hundreds who are living in tents or in their cars– a few nights in a hotel to regain some semblance of normalcy and dignity, and to replace some of their damaged, water-soaked belongings. Electricity, running hot and cold water, a bathtub, a clean, soft bed, the privacy of a toilet–one that flushes and is not shared by dozens of other individuals–these are a few of the “luxuries” you take for granted, that would make a world of difference for victims of Typhoon Yutu three weeks after the storm, even if it’s only for two nights. Your donations will offer such a gift to Randy, and others, to encourage them to stay strong….CNMI strong. As usual, I’ll film the disbursements so you can see how your contributions are actually impacting real people’s lives. https://www.gofundme.com/cnmistrong
I had the honor of presenting long-time Saipan, CNMI, resident, Manny S. Vitug with a check for $500–a show of support from some of my previous tour clients–to help with the recovery of his business and life after the devastation of Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu. Thanks to Ward S., Carl M., Laurie H., Al Z., Dean F., Ronald M., and Stacey Spencer-Willoughby.
News of the gift appeared in today’s (Wed Nov 14, 2018) Saipan Tribune, thanks to editor, Jayvee Vallejera: https://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/for-want-of-a-mechanic/
HEARTBREAKING: Manny’s Typhoon Yutu Story pt 1– (“For Want of a Mechanic…”)
Manny’s Typhoon Yutu Story pt 2– (“For Want of a Mechanic…”)
Manny tells his story part 2:
“FOR WANT OF A MECHANIC…”
How even a small donation to one person can uplift an entire community!
You may recall this proverb: For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
If you’re wondering how your individual contribution–large or small– can help, consider that proverb, and consider this: Over its years in business, an affordable auto repair shop with a generous, empathetic owner can help thousands of individuals stay mobile, keep working, earn a paycheck, support their families and avoid becoming destitute.
For 31 years, Manny Vitug has lived in the CNMI where he has owned and operated a community-focused auto repair shop (ELS Auto) business. He’s been known to undercharge people for his services. Some have had their cars repaired “on credit” and paid him back when they’re back on their feet and able. For some looking to make a purchase of a used car, he’ll often assess a vehicle’s road-worthiness just as a courtesy at no charge.
Now, however, after years of helping people in this way “on credit,” after growing a business on two islands, employing others, securing a nest egg for his retirement as well as a legacy for his children, Manny, in his own greatest time of need, has been told he “doesn’t qualify” for assistance or loans because he doesn’t have this thing the banks call a “credit history.” I want to show Manny that there are other sorts of credit histories–Karmic credit histories, if you will–that can come to his aid.
The success (or failure) of a business can have a domino effect on many others who are not directly connected to it. Manny has employees, tenants, family members and customers whose lives, livelihoods, futures and fates are intimately and intricately connected to his.
Who knows, if you or someone you love ever visits Saipan or Tinian on vacation or to relocate, it might be through Manny’s or his son’s repair work that your tour guide’s vehicle is able to provide a reliable and memorable experience of these beautiful islands.
Yes, it’s all connected…from nail to kingdom.
When it comes to telling the story of Saipan’s recovery after being hit by Super Typhoon Yutu–the strongest typhoon EVER to hit the Marianas, the SECOND strongest to hit the United States (mainland AND territories) EVER, and the THIRD most intense in terms of pressure (EVER), let’s not allow ourselves to write or say:
“For want of a mechanic, the future was lost…”
Manny is the first of several individuals I wish to help through the “Be Strong, CNMI Strong” disaster relief campaign.
Listen to Manny tell his story, view scenes of the devastation,
and show your support (and if you can’t support, then please “share”) at https://www.gofundme.com/cnmistrong
Walt F.J. Goodridge
CNMIStrong GoFundMe Campaign Administrator
Scenes from the actual storm and aftermath, why I started this personalized campaign, who it will help,and a plea for your support. I’ll be filming the disbursement of funds so you can see where and to whom your money actually goes!
If you can’t support at the moment, then please share, like and help spread the word! Be Strong! CNMI Strong!