Young woman pleads guilty to stealing checks from her step-mother's business
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young woman accused of stealing checks from her stepmother’s business last year has been released from jail to await sentencing, after the court granted a signed plea agreement between her and the government.
Cinta Laulu who had been in custody since her arrest last year, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond appeared in court last week for a Change of Plea hearing. Laulu, 29, was initially charged with two counts of forgery; one count of fraudulent use of a credit device; and one count of passing a bad check; all class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment terms of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the Court this month, Laulu pled guilty to count 3 of the information, fraudulent use of a credit device.
By her guilty plea, the defendant admits that on Nov. 17, 2021, she used a check, knowing it was stolen to purchase goods with a value over $100.
After the court accepted the plea agreement, the defense attorney asked the court to release his client on her own recognizance (OR) to await sentencing. He told the court that the victim in this case is his client’s stepmother and he understands that the stepmother wants her to pay the money back.
The prosecutor echoed the defense attorney’s motion.
The court granted the motion to release the defendant pending sentencing. The court said that there is no need for a stay away order from the victim in this matter because the defendant and the victim are related.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 27.
A man who is on probation for stealing and burglary was arrested again on the allegation he violated local drug laws.
Samasoni Moana was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by police last month in Matu’u where a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance and a baggie containing a green leafy substance were found in his pants pocket.
Moana is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, punishable by term of imprisonment from 5 to 10 years, a fine not more than $20,000, or both.
The government claims that on the early morning of Sept. 29, 2022, police officers patrolling the Matuu public highway saw a vehicle with an expired tag on the rear license plate.
Police pulled the vehicle over and two males were inside. Moana, the defendant, was the passenger.
While officers were speaking to the driver, the defendant, Moana, opened the passenger’s door and exited the vehicle. He was instructed by an officer to get back inside the vehicle; however, Moana continued to stand outside of the vehicle ignoring the officer’s request.
While Moana was walking around at the back of the vehicle, he reached inside the left pocket of his pants, while at the same time trying to avoid the officer who walked over to him.
Officers instructed Moana to remove his hands from his pocket, but Moana did not comply. Officers immediately arrested him and placed him inside the police unit.
A body search was conducted on Moana and officers discovered a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance that later tested positive for meth, as well as a small stamp-sized baggie containing a green leafy substance, which tested a positive for THC/ marijuana.
The defendant told officers the reason he smoked meth was to give him strength while working at his plantation, and the marijuana was for a friend.
The driver of the vehicle was also interviewed and told officers that Moana flagged him down for a ride and asked him to drop him in Faga’alu.
According to the driver’s statement, it was on their way to drop off Moana when officers pulled over his vehicle for an expired tag.
Bail is set at $5,000.
A man convicted of assaulting another man was ordered by the court to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders as a condition of his 5-year probation.
Alofa Amataga, who has been in custody since his arrest in August of last year, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.
The defendant, an overstayer, pled guilty to a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both, according to the plea agreement.
When given the chance to address the court, Amataga apologized for his actions and begged for a second chance to return home to his wife and children.
His defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentenced without any additional period of detention, which was also echoed by the prosecutor in this matter.
After a brief recess, the court sentenced Amataga to 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Execution of the sentence was suspended, and the defendant was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He shall serve 20 months in jail without any release whatsoever. Upon release from detention, Amataga must immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the remaining period of his probation.
The court stated that based on the information provided by Probation, the defendant was in American Samoa on a tourist permit.
The court ordered that once the defendant finished serving his detention and his travel arrangements were completed, he would only then be released to the Probation Office and immediately transported to his port of exit.
The court further ordered the defendant’s name be on the Immigration lookout list.
The arrest was made on Aug. 29, 2021, when Amataga and a friend were drinking at the back of Amataga’s home, which was close to his neighbor’s house. The neighbor complained to Amataga about the loud music and asked him to turn the volume down, but Amataga refused. That’s when a verbal argument between the victim and Amataga erupted.
The victim then left the scene and walked back to his house. However, Amataga got mad and walked over to the victim’s house, where he allegedly tried to assault the victim, using a piece of lumber. The victim defended himself and after the defendant’s third swing, which missed him, he sought refuge at a neighbor's home, from where a woman contacted police for assistance.
Police were able to apprehend Amataga four days after the incident.
Fetu Siaki, convicted of unlawful possession of illegal drugs was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) last week to seek and secure gainful employment.
If Fetu Siaki is unable to secure gainful employment in 90 days, the court ordered him to report back to the TCF to serve the remaining balance of his period of detention.
Siaki appeared in court last week for sentencing, and apologized for his actions and begged the court for a second chance to return home to provide for his family — especially his wife and children.
The defense attorney told the court that his client was gainfully employed before he was arrested in November of this year. He worked as a welder for over 13 years and he was the sole provider for his family while his wife stayed home to care for their children.
He then asked the court for a probated sentence without any additional period of detention.
The government’s attorney seconded the defense attorney’s request and asked the court to adopt the recommendation by the Probation office through the Pre Sentence Report (PSR).
The court sentenced Siaki to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000. Execution of the sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He is to serve 10 months of his 20 month period of detention, and is credited for time served while awaiting the outcome of his matter.
The defendant is also to be released for a period of 90 days in which time he shall secure and seek gainful employment.
If Siaki is unable to secure gainful employment, the court ordered him to report back to the TCF and serve the rest of his detention. The court also ordered him to make sure to pay his $2,000 fine.
In addition, he is subject to the usual probation restrictions, including to stay clean; and he must submit himself for drug testing.
The court advised Siaki that if he fails to comply with any of conditions of his probation, there will be no more discussion about probation, but the court will order him to serve the full 5 years at TCF.
A man accused of selling hand rolled marijuana cigarettes to two men last year has entered into a plea agreement. Manuele Aleki, 30, of Tafuna appeared in court last week for a pretrial conference but pled out instead.
Aleki, a farmer, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, pled guilty to a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
He admits that on Nov. 14, 2021 in Tafuna, he sold 8 hand rolled marijuana joints for $10 apiece to two men he claimed are his regular customers.
The case was reported to police by a woman who found 4 joints in her husband’s pocket. A verbal argument erupted between the couple, and it ended with the woman telling police that Aleki is her husband’s cousin, and he’s been selling drugs in the village for years — but nobody has reported it to police out of fear of Aleki and his family.
A search of Aleki’s home and plantation was carried out, where police found drugs, firearms, and drug paraphernalia.
Aleki, who is out on a $5,000 surety bond, will be sentenced Dec. 20.
A man who was arrested for disturbing the public peace (PPD) and later found to be in possession of drugs has entered into a plea agreement with the government.
Fasi Pesa appeared in court last week for a pretrial conference.
Under a plea agreement, accepted by the court, Pesa pled guilty to the amended, lesser charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a class D felony that carries a sentence of up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Pesa, set to be sentenced Dec. 18, admits that on the evening of Oct. 11, 2021 at his home in Malaeimi, he had on him three hand rolled marijuana joints when police arrested him for PPD.
According to terms of the plea agreement, when cops arrived at the scene, Pesa was yelling profanities at his neighbor, with a beer bottle in his hand. During a body search, police found the hand rolled marijuana cigarettes on him. Pesa admitted that the joints belonged to him, and he bought them from a man named Willie from Vaitogi.