Sat. Dec 14th, 2019

Court permits DHL heir to undergo addiction treatment off-island

DHL heir Larry Imeong Hillbroom Jr.’s was permitted by Associate Justice Lourdes Materne to leave Palau to undertake drug addiction treatment instead of serving jail term for violation of his probation.

Materne , ruling from the bench on Tuesday, considered Hillbroom’s wealth as a factor to her decision to allow him to seek treatment for his addiction, which she cited others couldn’t do due to lack of “resources” and rehabilitation program in Palau.

I find myself giving you another chance,” Materne told Hillbroom during the sentencing.

“One thing that can’t be ignored is that he is an addict, and that he has a problem, and that you have been given many chances,” Materne stated.

She added that Hillbroom unlike other drug cases and convicted drug offenders is in a “unique” position to “ get better.”  That unique position is his wealth which enables him to access rehabilitation elsewhere.

Hillbroom was sentenced to a total of 30 years of incarceration for violation of probation with credit for time also served in jail, but Materne ruled that the jail term is suspended on the condition that he attend and complete an inpatient rehabilitation program that is a minimum of six months in length.

Materne warned Hillbroom that his failure to get a treatment would mean immediate incarceration.

The judge also said Hillbroom will remain in jail until he submits information on the inpatient rehabilitation program. He was given a week to provide the Probation Office and the Attorney General’s Office the information. The program should be pre-approved and that Hillbroom should sign a waiver allowing the Probation Office access to his records.

Materne also said Hillbroom should ask the program center to provide the Probation Office weekly progress of his treatment.

Hillbroom is also ordered to take a drug test prior to his departure from Palau and before starting the treatment.

Upon his completion of the treatment and return to Palau, Hillbroom has to undergo drug testing three times a week for the next six months.

“A missed test, failure to produce a sample, or an unadulterated sample small be treated as positive drug tests and result in the immediate incarceration of the defendant,” the sentencing order stated.

According to Hillbroom’s lawyer, he is looking at the United States for addiction treatment. As of yesterday, the Attorney General’s Office said Hillbroom has not presented information on the rehabilitation program.

There is no guarantee that Hillbroom will undergo treatment while in the U.S. or that he will return to Palau upon his treatment.

Hillbroom is a multi-millionaire who holds US and Palau passports, is a son of Larry Hillblom, co-founder of the shipping company, although their surnames are spelled differently.

Hillbroom’s inheritance has been estimated at $100 million, although it might have been less now due to reported financial mismanagement

Hillbroom in June was sentenced to 10 years’ probation, fined $50,000 and ordered to undergo a drugs rehabilitation program after pleading “no contest”  for methamphetamine trafficking and possession.

During that plea agreement in June,Materne’s order had warned him he would serve a five-year jail term if he failed any drug test.

Hillbroom failed the drug test on July 16 and was briefly on the run after the court ordered his arrest.

Assistant Attorney General Leach asked that the court to impose a sentence of at least 30 years against Hillbroom arguing that the heir is a “recidivist” who have contributed to the drug problem in Palau.

Slap on the Face

The outcome of the sentencing angered Vice President Raynold Oilouch saying that Hillbroom should have at least be sent to jail for 10 years for violation of his probation.

“You are basically rewarding the criminals who has the money to avoid, to evade the law in Palau, “ Oilouch told reporters on Wednesday.

He added the law should apply “similarly’ to all regardless of wealth.

Oilouch said Materne’s ruling was a  “slap on the face”.

“It is especially demoralizing to those in the frontlines that work hard fighting illegal drugs,” Oilouch told reporters,

He repeatedly said he was “disappointed and frustrated with this decision that was issued from the bench.”

Oilouch also blamed the Attorney General’s Office for agreeing to a plea bargain in June.

“They should have let this case go to trial so that we can determine guilt or innocence and at least we can say the Ministry of Justice have done all it could,” he stated.

“This was not done and unfortunately, this decision is made.”

Last year Judge Materne presided over a jury trial, which convicted Arnold Buck to 57 years in jail- the longest sentence ever imposed on drug traffickers in Palau.

Arnold Buck, Larry Hillbroom’s uncle has had several charges of possession and trafficking of drugs.  While also out on bail for his earlier drug charges violated conditions of his release.

His sentence of 57 years in jail is the longest sentence ever imposed on drug traffickers.