Alleged extortion scheme sucks local woman into paying large sums of cash
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The woman accused of stealing over $19,000 from another woman by extorting her and using different identifies, with one of the identities she used being Elvis Patea — is now in custody after she was arrested by police last week.
When questioned by the investigator, Mulioaiga “INA” Tupulua stated that the reason she did what she did was because her husband was the only one working and his check was not enough to cover their needs and feed their family. So she then decided that she needed to do something to be able to help with their children’s needs.
Tupulua made her initial appearance before District Court Judge Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde last Thursday morning.
She is charged with one count of stealing and one count of criminal fraud, both class C felonies, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to seven years, a fine of up to $20,000 or both such fine and imprisonment.
Bail is set at $25,000 and Tupulua is scheduled to appear in Court tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Oct. 19th for her preliminary examination (PX).
The government claimed that this matter was reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) by a woman who stated that a female individual (later identified as the victim in this case) was at the court house on the morning of June 25, 2021 and claimed that she had basically been extorted over the internet. Furthermore, the woman who reported the matter told police that the individual[s] involved was using different identifies, one of which used the name — Elvis Patea.
An investigator from the DPS Internal Affairs Section and Transnational Crime Unit was assigned to investigate the alleged crime.
The investigators first interviewed the victim at the Leone Police Substation (LPS).
The victim told investigators that it all started some time around May 2020 and how it started was that she received an email from a person using the name of “Jason Laumoli” J.L.
In the email, the person requested that she pay money for a fine in Apia for a past matter involving her and “Kim Chong” (a person she was somewhat acquainted with, but had never seen). The amount to be paid was not stated at the time but “J.L”, in the email, also told her that he’s a lawyer and that she had to pay something to the court.
The victim told investigators that she had been in Apia on numerous occasions in the past. Specifically during the month of July every year as part of a function involving her church but had never gotten in trouble with the law there. Furthermore, since she had never been in trouble with the law at all, she was basically oblivious as to its process and was, nonetheless, afraid of getting in trouble with the court. Hence, she acquiesced to whatever “fees” “J.L” required of her.
Not long following the outset of the above-scheme, the victim developed a romantic view of “J.L” who, was although extorting the victim, presented himself as someone who was representing her best interests and protecting her. This romantic view turned into an on-line courtship which led to the victim emailing “J.L” compromising pictures of herself and only served to exacerbate her situation as the “fees” not only continued but would increase over time.
These “fees” would be made known to the victim via email and she would in-turn, rely upon her cousin, Mulioaiga “INA” Tupulua (defendant) to deliver the “fee” placed in an envelope.
According to the victim’s statement to investigators, she would either give these envelopes directly to Tupulua or she would leave it at the Asian-operated store across the street from Leone High School. The victim (who did not have a functioning vehicle at time) stated that the reason why she returned to Tupulua for assistance in this regard is because Tupulua had a vehicle to make the deliveries and she trusted her. Furthermore, the victim stated that she confided in Tupulua everything, which is something that she did not even do with her siblings or her parents.
The victim further stated that because of their relationship (lawyer/ lover) she was in a situation of not only paying fees but providing other miscellaneous items to him as well such as, but not limited to, i-Phones.
Based on the information provided to investigators, the extorting started around May 2020 and by November 2020, the victim basically told JL that she was growing weary of the entire matter and was no longer inclined to give him any more money.
During this same month, the victim took it a step further by ignoring him and when she did this, JL emailed her claiming that her lawyer is going to be changed from JL to “Elvis Patea” E.P. The victim told investigators that she was also extorted by E.P for five months from November 2020 to April 2021. On April of 2021, the victim received an email from E.P telling her that her lawyer was going to be changed to “Christine Garvey” C.G.
C.G emailed the victim and told her that she is J.L’s ex-wife and that she saw her (victim) pictures that she (victim) gave to J.L.
C.G then told the victim to give her more money or she would expose the pictures to the world. The victim did not pay the money for this one.
This matter was reported to police on June 25th. However, on June 28th, C.G emailed the victim and told her that she (C.G) knows where the (victim) lives and that she was going to go to her (victim) place to kill her but she (C.G) has a heart.
The next morning on June 29th, investigators interviewed the victim at the LPS.
The investigation also revealed that some time during the third week of July 2021, C.G emailed the victim and asked her if she had gone to the police regarding her court matters. The victim told C.G that she did not and her last pamyent to C.G took place some time during the last week of July 2021.
The reason for this being that the victim’s cousin and delivery person, Tupulua told her (victim) that C.G and E.P had left the island and that J.L was in jail.
On Aug. 4th, 2021, investigators interviewed the defendant in this matter at the LPS. During the interview, the defendant affirmed that she did make the deliveries of money (that was placed in the envelopes) for the victim. She stated that she had done this for the victim only three times since the last quarter of 2020 up until July 2021.
Tupulua also mentioned that she was asked to make four deliveries but she only made three because one of the deliveries was to be made to Logotala. She then refused the Logotala delivery because of its reputation of being a haven for drug activity.
During the interview, Tupulua was asked if something like this had ever happened before with the victim. Tupulua stated that it did during the latter part of 2017 and into the early part of 2018 and it was with a guy name “Kim Chong”. She said she learned about it when she stopped by Midkiff Elementary to visit her cousin (victim) who appeared to be stressed when she got there.
When Tupulua later on asked the victim what was going on, the victim replied that she was dating a guy on Facebook and that she was sending nude photos of herself. Tupulua then basically opined that the victim’s weakness is that she easily falls for guys who are abusing her.
Tupulua also told investigators that when the victim showed her a receipt of three hundred dollars (reflecting that is was sent through Western Union), Tupulua said that she convinced the victim to seek guidance from their church, and to stop what she was doing. The victim took the advice and stopped sending Kim Chong money.
When asked about how the deliveries took place or to describe them, Tupulua cited her delivery to U.S Mart store in Futiga as an example. During this delivery, she arrived at the store and saw that there was a white Ford van (with fully tinted windows) already parked in the parking lot. She then exited her vehicle and walked to the driver’s window of the van.
Upon reaching it, she observed that the window was rolled approximately halfway down. She also observed that the driver exposed his left hand (palm side facing upward) outside the window. She then placed the enveloped on the driver’s hand and walked away without anything being said by anyone.
When asked for the description of the driver or passenger, Tupulua stated that they wore sunglasses and had hoodies over their heads. Tupulua could not give a clear description of the individual who received the envelope from her nor could give detailed description of the van (or its license plate number) used by the individuals to whom she said she delivered the envelope.
It was eventually discovered that Tupulua could not provide the details because the van and the individuals, to whom she claimed she gave the envelopes, were all concocted.
Investigation into the foregoing which included but was not limited to, the perusal and analysis of over 300 pages of emails, over 150 pages of text messages and inquiries made with over 40 pages along with Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS) records of the victim’s ATM withdrawals from Feb. 2020 to June 30, 2021, disclosed the following information:
1 Tupulua claimed that she only made three deliveries (having received four envelopes) during the time period of the last quarter of 2020 to July 2021. A review of the bank statement showed she received money from the victim approximately thirty times in the amount of $19,270 during the period from May 2020 to July 2021.
2 During the interview, Tupulua described the extortionists as two individuals wearing sunglasses and hoodies, hence basically saying she does not know what they looked like — however in her text to the victim, she described J.L as the same guy in the photo that J.L emailed to the victim. She then described C.G two different times differently and claimed her to be J.L’s ex-wife.
3 Tupulua not only described J.L, she also claimed that she met him at Hope House (H.H) and that she had met C.G numerous times elsewhere. Further in the matter of H.H, not only did Tupulua claim that Laumoli was being cared for at H.H, but that her brother-in-law also provided money for J.L’s accommodations.
4 Tupulua on numerous occasions, texted to the victim that she (Tupulua) met with the H.H security guard so often that she basically said something to the effect of, “he must be tired of looking at my face”, or “I should wear a mask”. She also mentioned her dealings with the cook at H.H about the delivery of J.L’s gift to the victim.
5 Investigators met up with two senior officials at Hope House and acquired a list of all the H.H patients/tenants and employees for 2020/2021. The list reflects that during the year 2020 and 2021 there were 30 residents at H.H — none of them were/ are under the name of J.L. In regard to the employees of H.H, investigators met with over forty of them. All were shown a picture of Tupulua and none said that they knew her or had even seen her around.
However, one said she might have seen her at a store somewhere. Other than this, none of the employees recognized her. Two of these employees were security guards; one for H.H and the other, a twenty-year-old employees of Fatu-o-Aiga. Neither one recognized her.
6 Furthermore on the matter of H.H, employees, its cook (whom Tupulua claimed played a role in delivering J.L’s gift to him) did not recognized Tupulua’s picture stating that he had never seen her before. Tupulua’s brother-in-law, who had been working at H.H for seven years, vehemently denied that he paid for any accommodations for a J.L.
He said that there was not and there is no J.L at H.H. The defendant’s brother-in-law further stated that has not seen Tupulua at H.H and does not know what deliveries she is talking about.
On Oct. 1st, 2021, investigators went to Tupulua’s in-laws’ residence in Vaitogi and they met her and asked her if she could come with them to the LPS for questioning, and she agreed. Investigators and Tupulua arrived at the LPS where the victim was waiting there for them.
Investigators informed Tupulua that she’s not under arrest and she could leave at anytime she wanted. Investigators also told Tupulua that some of the information contained in the affidavit she provided to them in the first time they met did not make any sense and asked that she explain herself.
In response, Tupulua started crying and apologized to the victim saying, “I know what I did was wrong … I’m so sorry … I know you’re struggling and I know it affected you. I know your mom would not want this to happen and is there anything I can do? I hope you would forgive me …”. At this point, investigators instructed Tupulua to stop talking.
Tupulua was then Mirandized after which she stated that she understood her rights and voluntarily waived them. Investigators then asked Tupulua to continue her statement.
Tupulua continued to apologize to the victim because she said she knew what she did was wrong. She also apologized to investigators for taking up their time. She then stated that she only did what she did because her husband was the only one working and that his check was not enough to cover their needs. So she then decided that she needed to do something to be able to help with their children’s needs.
She stated that she knew it would come back to her so she moved to her in-laws in Vaitogi to stay away from the victim. She also, at some point during the interview, said to the victim that she (Tupulua) would pay her back.
On this, investigators asked the victim if she wanted her money back and the victim said, “Yes, I do.”
In addition, Tupulua stated that she would just pick the money up from the store across from Leone High School (LHS). This particular store, known as Nun’s is a store that is not only located relatively close to her house and has been in operation for about five years, but her mother works there. It is because of this that she was comfortable with designating it as a drop-off and pick-up point.
Tupulua would pick up the envelope and take it home and hide it under her bed.
She also stated that when the victim started to ignore J.L, she created “E.P” (she saw his name in the news) and the same with “C.G”.
Investigators asked why she picked J.L and Tupulua stated that she knew him because he helped out with her husband’s immigration documents, and when she and the victim went to Bluesky, the victim saw J.L and commented that he was cute. Tupulua remembered this and the victim’s weakness of falling for men and being used by them.
When questioned by investigators to explain who Kim Chong (K.C) is, Tupulua explained that K.C was a friend of her other friends who used to fix or maintain vending machines. When asked about the matter regarding K.C and the victim, Tupulua said that her cousin from Apia needed money. So, being aware of the victim’s weakness, she posed as K.C and courted the victim via email for the purpose of bilking her out of more than $300 as according to Tupulua, she had seen the victim with a receipt of $300 being sent via Western Union to K.C and that money being sent by her to K.C transpired five times.
During the time Tupulua was posing as J.L between May and November 2020, the defendant appropriated $6,900 from the victim with the purpose to deprive her of it by means of deceit and coercion.
During the time period of November 2020 to April 2021 when Tupulua posed as E.P, she appropriated $8,860 from the victim. Between April to July 2021 when Tupulua posed as C.G, she appropriated $3,450 from the victim.
According to the court affidavit, Tupulua appropriated $19,270 from the victim.