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Samoan man in Alaska sentenced to 10 yrs for possession of a firearm

U.S. Attorney's Office - Alaska logo

Anchorage, ALAKSA — A 24-year old defendant of Samoan ancestry — labeled by federal prosecutors as an associate of a street gang — was sentenced last week at federal court in Anchorage, Alaska to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony possession of a firearm, according to court records.

Court documents show that Manee Mulifai, whose parents were born in Samoa and later moved to the US mainland had a troubled past, starting as a teenager.

US District Court Judge Timothy Burgess sentenced him.

Mulifai’s co-defendant Matthew Adrian Colding, a.k.a. “Money,” 24, was previously sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to the same charge. 

Both men, who are residents of Anchorage, were in possession of firearms during a home invasion style robbery, in April 2017, in which a shootout between the two defendants and victims inside a residence in Washila, Alaska took place, according to federal prosecutors, who point out that Colding was shot several times, but survived.

The US Justice Department said in a statement last Friday that an investigation revealed that Colding fired 4 rounds, Mulifai fired 10 rounds, while one of the victims inside the house fired 10 rounds. Mulifai was found with a pair of stolen firearms 5 days later during a visit to his state probation officer, according to prosecutors.

The investigation further revealed that Mulifai and Colding are associated with the “Fight Squad” street gang.  Mulifai has a previous felony conviction for second-degree burglary, and Colding has a previous felony conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree.

Because of their felony convictions, Mulifai and Colding were both prohibited from possessing firearms, said prosecutors, who argued for a lengthy jail term, due to the seriousness of the crime and the fact that Mulifai has a criminal record.

In its sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Brian D. Heady recommended 60 months — or 5 years — imprisonment, followed by 4 years of supervised release. The defense argued this sentence would be sufficient, but not more than necessary, under federal sentencing law.

The defense also requested an assessment for Mulifai’s participation in a drug and counseling treatment program, given  “his history of opiate addiction years.”

Hoping for a shorter period of incarceration, the defense - in its sentencing memo - shared with the court, Mulifai’s personal history as well as his run-ins with the law. The defense made it clear that the defendant was only convicted of the burglary case.

For his family history, the defense pointed out that Mulifai’s parents were both born and raised in Samoa before they moved to California where he was born, in Long Beach. He is one of six children and the family had lived in California, Hawai’i, and Alaska. They had traveled briefly to Samoa.

Manee recalled being the “black sheep” of the family and “always getting in trouble,” for which he was beaten by his father, according to the defense, noting that the beatings were administered to him the most out of the siblings and were for such things as not doing the dishes, or falling asleep in church.

Manee stated that he loves his father but his father acted on whatever his mother told him, according to the sentencing statement, which also shows that the defendant was previously admitted to a drug treatment program, but later relapsed following the death of his grandmother, who had taken care of him.