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Defendants convicted of receiving stolen property — sentenced

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The two men convicted of receiving stolen property from a Tafuna home were sentenced last week. Ata Uli and Matthew Sopa were ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF, as a condition of their 5-year probation terms.

Both men have been in custody since their arrest, each unable to post a $15,000 bond.

Uli was initially charged with one count of receiving stolen property, a class C felony. But under a plea agreement, he pled guilty to the amended charge of conspiracy to receive stolen property from another person, a class D felony.

With his guilty plea, Uli admits that on July 18, 2020 he agreed to help Sopa sell 2 laptops, a computer, a DVD player, DVDs, and a 2 electronic chainsaws to his brother-in-law, knowing that the items were stolen. The total value of the stolen items exceeded $100.

Co-defendant Sopa was initially charged with second degree burglary, stealing, receiving stolen property, and trespassing.

Under a plea bargain with the government, Sopa pled guilty to receiving stolen property. The remaining charges were dismissed. Sopa admits that on July 18, 2020 he took a laptop, an iPad, clothes and a tool box to a person in Tafuna, knowing that the items were stolen.

Charges against the pair stem from a break-in that occurred during mid 2020 when the victim (homeowner) was at work. The two defendants burglarized his home at night and stole several items. Some of the stolen items were found and returned to the owner while the rest were never recovered, according to the government.

When given the chance to address the court, Uli apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his family. He also apologized to his family, village, and church but did not apologize to the victim.

According to Uli, the 13 months he has spent in prison has taught him a good lesson, and he is truly remorseful and wants to go home to offer his life to God and serve his family.

Sopa also apologized to the court, his family, and his parents. He, too, did not apologize to the victim. He said if given a second chance, he will never appear in court again.

Defense attorney asked the court to grant his clients another chance, saying Uli and Sopa are both young and have a lot to learn in life. He asked for a probated sentence without any additional period of detention.

The government’s attorney echoed the motion for a probated sentence, saying that despite being convicted of a felony, both defendants are good candidates for probation. The prosecutor asked the court to accept the apologies offered, and give Uli and Sopa a second chance to rebuild their young lives.

In delivering its decision, the court noted that both defendants are first time offenders; they fully cooperated with the government during the investigation; and they are young and truly remorseful for what they did.

Reading from the Pre-Sentence Report, the court pointed out that the motivation behind the defendants’ actions was the intention to sell the stolen items so they can go out, and buy beer for themselves and their friends.

The court sentenced Uli and Sopa each to 5 years probation, subject to certain conditions. They are to serve 20 months at the TCF; however, they only have to serve 13 months (the remaining 7 months is stayed, based on their compliance with conditions of probation). This means Uli and Sopa will be released next month.

While on probation, the two are ordered to remain alcohol and drug free, and be law abiding, among other things.