Former employee of the AG’s Office receives probated sentence
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A former employee of the Attorney General’s Office convicted of stealing money from people, who were seeking an ‘OK-Board’ for travel, was sentenced by the High Court to 24 months probation.
Loimata Savea, who out on a $5,000, cash bond, appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia last week for sentencing. She was represented by Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson while prosecuting the case was the Independent Prosecutor, Lornalei Meredith.
Savea was charged with one count of stealing and one count of embezzlement, both class C felonies, punishable by term of imprisonment of up to seven years, a fine of up to $5,000, or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both; and one count of public servant acceding to corruption, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement, accepted by the court, Savea pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
When given a chance to address the court, Savea apologized for her actions saying that she made a terrible mistake. She told the court that she’s truly remorseful for what she did and promised that she would never do it again. She requested a second chance to serve her family and look for a better future.
Her defense attorney, Anderson told the court that Savea is truly remorseful for her actions and he believes that she is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
Anderson told the court that his client is willing to pay restitution and had wanted to do so when the case was first heard in court, however, his office advised her to wait until the case is resolved.
Prosecutor Meredith agreed that Savea is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence and asked for her to pay restitution.
After considering all facts of the case, Savea was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and Savea is placed on probation for 24 months subject to several conditions.
She is ordered to serve 90 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility, pay restitution of $270 and a $500 fine. Savea is also ordered to be law abiding, visit Probation monthly, and stay away from problems.
The court advised Savea that if she violates any conditions of his probation, there will be no second chance for her.
The charges against Savea stem from an incident that occurred on July 8, 2020 when a woman went to the Attorney General’s (AG) Office and filed a complaint against Savea for stealing money from her.
The victim stated to investigators that some time in June 2020, she heard an announcement that American Samoa residents who were stuck in Apia had been given permission to return to the territory through repatriation flights. Due to the fact that the victim’s children were in Apia, she reached out to Savea for assistance in bringing her family back home.
The total number of family members who needed to return was seven and all needed an ‘OK- Board’ to travel.
It was during their conversation when the defendant told the victim that the charge per person is $50, which added up to $350 for all seven OK-Boards. Savea also told the victim that instead of coming over to the AG’ Office with the document, to send her children’s document via Facebook-messenger.
The victim told investigators that on June 19, 2020 she received a call from Savea stating that her OK-Boards were ready, and the payment was needed. The victim went over to the AG’s Office and met with Savea who then told her to wait as she walked over to another employee to ask for a discount.
A few minutes later, Savea returned and told the victim that the request for a discount was approved and the new total for all OK-Boards went down to $250. It was during that time the victim handed over to Savea $300. Savea then instructed the victim to walk with her downstairs to the Revenue window to get change.
Upon reaching the Revenue Window, Savea gave a one-hundred dollar bill to the cashier to break. After receiving the change from the cashier, Savea gave the victim her change of $50. The victim then gave Savea $20 in return for the work she did for her and her children.
The victim did not receive a receipt for the amount she had paid but received the OK-Boards a few days later.
It was when the victim again went back to the AG’s Office to seek assistance for OK-Boards for bringing more family members from Apia, that she overheard AG employees mentioning that the OK-Boards were free of charge for the repatriation flights.
Immediately, the victim became confused and felt that something was not right, therefore, she asked the employees for aid, and in turn filed a complaint.
Two special investigators from the AG’s Office were assigned to investigate the matter. As part of the investigation, investigators seized footage from the Revenue Office, which showed Savea at the Revenue window, on June 18, 2020, at 12:44 p.m, the same date mentioned by the victim in her statement of when the alleged transaction occurred.
On July 12, 2020 around 12:35p.m, a letter of termination was served to Savea, citing that she had accepted a substantial payment from a member of the public to perform her regular duties, a criminal act. Due to Savea still being in her probationary period, the letter informed her she was not entitled to hearing rights.
Four days later, on July 16th, investigators from the AG’s Office with the assistance of two police sergeants met with Savea at her home in Fagaima in an effort to interview her regarding this incident. Savea was told of the situation and it was explained to her that she was not under arrest nor was she in custody.
When asked about the incident, Savea stated that on June 19th, she provided assistance to the victim in expediting OK-Board for seven of the victim’s family members who were stuck in Apia and were trying to travel back under the Repatriation Flight Program.
She told investigators that before the OK-Board fees were waived, it was originally $50 per person. Because the victim needed seven (7) people to travel, the total amount she told the victim to pay was $300 but instead of paying the entire thing, Savea told the victim to pay only $250.
Savea admitted that the victim gave her $300. She did not have change on hand so she asked the victim to walk with her to the Revenue Office to get her change. After breaking a one-hundred dollar bill, Savea said she gave $50 to the victim, and the victim tipped her with $20.
Savea stated that she felt bad knowing what she did was wrong. The following day, Savea told investigators that she had contacted the victim and told her that the money would be returned due to the OK-Boards being free of charge.
She further told investigators that the victim should have reached out to her before filing a complaint because she had helped her (victim) in the past with travel. She also added that she would pay the victim’s money back when she got her payroll check on Monday, July 20th.