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Final defendant in U.S. mail theft case sentenced

fili@samoanews.com

The fourth and last defendant accused by federal prosecutors of stealing mail parcels bound for American Samoa was sentenced yesterday at the federal court in Honolulu.

Louise Felesi along with co-defendants Stanford Salavea, Maunaloa Aitaoto and Jonathan Taboniar pled guilty in June this year to stealing mail parcels. While the codefendants were sentenced last week, Felesi was sentenced to serve two months imprisonment and once released he is ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Salavea, Aitaoto and Taboniar also received similar sentence of jail time between two and four months as well as performing between 100 and 150 hours of  community service. Salavea and Aitaoto are to perform community service in the Samoan community including at a Samoan church.

Lead federal prosecutor Ken Sorenson said that Monday “marks the sentencing of the fourth and final defendant in this charged conspiracy to steal goods and products from the U.S. mail by some of the very persons entrusted to see to its safe delivery.”

“None of these defendants had any prior criminal history and all had previously good work records,” Sorenson told Samoa News yesterday afternoon. “The Court in these sentencings struck a fair balance in taking into account the lack of prior criminal involvement and the cooperation of these four defendants while seeing to it that each will serve time in federal prison, perform hundreds of hours of community service and be closely monitored on supervised release once they are released back into society.”

“The integrity of the our nation's mail is critical, particularly mail to our or Pacific island neighbors where postal recipients are more isolated than the standard mail recipient.  We hope that this case sends the message that those who tamper with the U.S. mail will be aggressively pursued, prosecuted and punished,” Sorenson said via e-mail from Honolulu.

Salavea, Aitaoto and Tabonair are to self surrender at the federal detention center in Honolulu to serve their jail term on Jan. 9. 2012. Samoa News was unable to immediately confirm as to when Felesi is to start serving his jail term.

According to court records, all four defendants are to pay total restitution of $10,489.05 — with $5,845.44 due immediately to the U.S. Postal Service; $3,490.35 due immediately to The Shoe Tree, Inc.; and $1,153.26 due immediately to “J.R.”.

The Honolulu-based Star Advertiser newspaper reported last week that the restitution to the Post Service covers claims filed by individuals with missing parcels, the one to Shoe Tree covers an order merchandise including Nike shoes that are missing and the payment to “J.R.” was for a separate claim.

When investigators went to Felesi’s home, they recovered a missing flat screen television and desktop computer, the newspaper states.

All four defendants were former ramp employees of Pacific Air Cargo at the Honolulu International Airport. The company operates a weekly flight between Honolulu and Pago Pago carrying the U.S. mail.

Prosecutors said in court documents that the defendants used their access to the U.S. mail to inspect, open and at times steal parcels or items within parcels by secreting said parcels or articles in a van utilized by the defendants for employment transportation purposes.

They said that between November 2010 and February 2011 the defendants working in concert with each other stole parcels from the U.S. mail on a regular basis.

Salavea was the lead ramp worker at the time.



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