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Former TBAS teller arrested for stealing from customer’s account


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man while working as a teller for the Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS) has been arrested and charged for allegedly stealing money from a business customer’s bank account by writing counter checks on the account and withdrawing more than $20,000.

Counter checks are blank checks made available at your bank when requested (ID required). They are also called temporary or starter checks, and are plain, printed checks that include the bank’s routing number and usually your account number, identified when you request such checks. Personalized (or business) information is added by you writing on blank lines that are often located at the upper-left side of the check.

According to the affidavit, on September 25, 2023, an employee of Paramount Builders Company walked into the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) to report an alleged matter of theft involving their bank account at TBAS. The matter was referred to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to continue the investigation into this matter.

An accountant from Paramount Builders company was able to verify that someone had withdrawn money from the TBAS account on five separate occasions without their knowledge. Also, he noticed this person utilized temporary handwritten checks and signed off on them to release the requested amount on five (5) separate dates.

The CID met with the TBAS VP & Chief Operation Officer Owen Peery who confirmed that Faamita’i Collins (suspect) was responsible for cashing the five checks valued at $21,000.00 from the Paramount Builders account by using temporary checks “to which he (Collins) signed off on.”

Mr. Peery also confirmed that the bank had refunded the amount of $21,000.00 back to the Paramount Builders account. A termination letter was served to Mr. Collins, according to the VP & COO.

On October 10, 2023 Collins was Mirandized and waived his rights and agreed to make a statement at the CID Office in Fagatogo.

Collins confessed that it was “him that did this whole scam and stole the money from Paramount Builders account.”

He stated that he was a bank teller for TBAS, where he had access to “temporary checks”, and signed off on them to release the cash amount of the checks on August 30, 2023 and September 5, 12, 15 and 20.

The affidavit states that 3 of checks were written as “Pay to” CASH, one to his cousin and one to himself (defendant).

He said the cash deposited into his cousin’s account was without his cousin’s knowledge. Collins stated that he is in possession of his cousin’s debit card hence the reason why he wrote the check to his name.

Collins said he deposited all amounts into his off-island account, using that bank’s banking app.

Collins is charged with 5 counts of stealing — one for each check. Each count is a class C Felony, punishable by imprisonment not to exceed seven (7) years, a fine up to $5000, or equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000 or both.

Bail was set at $10,000.

(Samoa News should point out that the affidavit identifies the amount as $21,000, but adding up the 5 counts of stealing dollar amounts listed in the affidavit shows a total of $21,500.)