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Woman pleads guilty to fraudulently using IDs of kids in American Samoa

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She used a deceased ex-husband to obtain federal benefits

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 39-year old Samoan woman, residing in Tacoma, Washington, who allegedly used identities of children living in American Samoa and Samoa to obtain federal benefits, has pled guilty to three felony charges in connection with a seven-year benefit fraud scheme.

Iliganoa Theresa Lauofo appeared late yesterday morning before US District Court Judge Brian A Tsuchida at the federal court in Seattle, for a change of plea hearing, according to court records.  

Lauofo was charged last November with six counts of wire fraud; four counts of theft of public funds; three counts of Social Security number misuse; three counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of embezzlement of mail by a postal employee, according to the indictment, which alleges that Lauofo misrepresented her household composition, income, and identity, to collect federally funded assistance benefits to which she was not entitled. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said Lauofo pled guilty at yesterday’s hearing to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and embezzlement of mail by a postal employee.

She “illegally collected more than $267,000 over the course of a fraud scheme that began in 2011 and continued until 2018,” the US Justice Department said yesterday in a statement, which also notes that Lauofo will be sentenced Apr. 20, 2020.

According to the USDOJ, wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and embezzlement by a postal employee is punishable by up to 5 years behind bars. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory consecutive two-year prison term to follow any punishment imposed on the other counts of conviction.

Prosecutors point out that the ultimate sentence will be determined by the court, based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The plea agreement between Lauofo and prosecutors was not yet publicly available on federal court records at press time.

As previously reported by Samoa News, Lauofo used stolen identities — including a that of her deceased ex-husband — to establish fraudulent credit and bank accounts, funded in part by checks she stole while serving as a US Postal Service employee. (See Samoa News Nov. 25, 2019 edition for details.)