Elliot Krieger of Jarvis, Krieger & Sullivan is a Harvard law graduate attorney

By Rhony Laigo
Balita Media

A high-profile attorney will represent Marissa Lapid, wife of Senator Lito Lapid, who was arrested last Jan. 15 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas upon arrival from the Philippines.

Harvard Law graduate Elliot F. Krieger, a former Assistant United States Attorney with the United States Department of Justice, who is listed as one of the litigators in Southern California, has been hired to represent Mrs. Lapid, who is facing smuggling charges for allegedly failing to declare $50,000 when she came to the US last November. Arriving passengers in the US are required to declare money in their possession worth more than $10,000.

Krieger told reporters her client denies smuggling the money. “We will vigorously defend these charges,” he said. A spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security said Mrs. Lapid is charged with dollar smuggling, which is punishable for up to $500,000 in fines and a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

Krieger said Mrs. Lapid came back to the US “on the invitation of the Department of Homeland Security to deal with this issue.”

He said Mrs. Lapid wasn’t aware that criminal charges have been filed against her and that she willingly came back to the US in response to the “invitation.”

According to Krieger, Mrs. Lapid is presently out on bail in the amount of $500,000 bond by virtue of a lien placed on her property in Las Vegas. Asked how many properties Mrs. Lapid has, Krieger declined to answer, although current real estate prices of most homes in Las Vegas is worth much less than $500,000 each. Nevada is one of the most affected states racked by the home mortgage crisis.

When asked who’s paying for his services, Krieger also declined to offer an answer and refused to give further details about the case. A preliminary hearing has been set for Feb. 7, he said.

Reports from Manila said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it will extend assistance to Mrs. Lapid. DFA sources said, however, that Filipino citizens are only provided with a method on how to get legal assistance but that the accused will have to shoulder their own attorney’s fees.

Krieger also confirmed reports that Mrs. Lapid wears a monitoring bracelet as “ordered by the court.” Reports said her passport was also seized and Krieger said her movement is limited within the Clark County that includes Las Vegas. He, however, did not disclose where exactly Mrs. Lapid is staying or if she is with family members.

When asked, Krieger said Mrs. Lapid has been in the US several times. Reports from Manila said Mrs. Lapid brought the money to “pay” for her properties in the US.

The jarvislawyers.com website says Krieger also has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and handles family law matters as well as criminal matters.

The superlawyers.com also named Krieger as belonging to the Super Lawyers list of top attorneys in Southern California. Krieger’s firm said “No more than five percent of the lawyers in California are selected by Super Lawyers.”

The public affairs office of the Customs and Border Protection said all arriving passengers are given the Form 105 from the Department of Treasury. US federal laws require anyone to declare any currency or monetary instrument, whether cash, checks, money orders, travelers’ checks, etc., if the total amount is more than $10,000. Penalties for not doing so are “severe” and violators will face both civil and criminal charges.

A specialist from the CBP Los Angeles said that last year the Los Angeles and Las Vegas jurisdiction seized a total of $4.2 million in undeclared currency from arriving passengers. This includes those from passengers who “failed to file a report, filing a report containing a material omission or misstatement, or filing a false or fraudulent report.”

Reports said Mrs. Lapid hid $20,000 in socks which were found in her luggage. Another $20,000 was in her bag. She only declared $10,000, reports said. The dollars were confiscated, although reports were unclear if all $50,000 were taken from her.

Reactions regarding her arrest were mostly unkind, if not outright vicious. A comment posted on the Philippine Star website even said that because she didn’t declare it, it was clear that it was “stolen from the Filipino people,” said rodel_polintan_tipco.

Another, identified only as “gatbon,” even asked both the U.S. and the Philippine governments to investigate if the property or properties belonging to the Lapids in the U.S. were paid for by “stolen money” and must be seized if the Lapids could not prove that they paid for them legally.

Some even alleged that the “stolen money” came from pork barrel funds that Sen. Lapid got for being a member of the Senate. He has been serving the august body since 2004.

Under the Constitution, a senator receives an annual salary of only P200,000 or a mere $5,000 in one year. This led to another comment from someone identified only as “garysc8philstar” who asked how the Lapids were able to acquire lots of money and properties. The same posted that “it was good that she was arrested in the U.S.,” as if implying that since her husband is a sitting senator, he is “exempted” from any form of investigation in the Philippines.

Other reactions also criticized the Foreign Affairs department for reportedly stating that it will assist Marissa, to which “makulot” posted “Why will the DFA assist Mrs. Lapid? She’s a civilian and her action is a major offense, smuggling $$ into the U.S.”

A post by “traderman” said that the money was for “good time” since she went to Las Vegas and not intended to pay for the house which you can “amortize in 30/40 years.”

Another, identified only as “happyfalcon” said “She is the wife of a foreign dignitary just bringing loot. Gamble as high roller.”
In the Philippines, Sen Lapid was said to have been “saddened” by his wife’s arrest but that “she is ready to defend herself.”