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Man with warrant pending since 2007 arrested at Court

fili@samoanews.com

A man wanted by local authorities since 2007 in the wahoo theft case at the now closed COS Samoa Packing cannery, is long last in jail — he was arrested yesterday when he showed up at District Court for a court clearance.

He is now being held at the Territorial Correctional Facility with another court hearing set for later this week.

Solomona Pati, aka Simati Pati, is charged with one count each of stealing, embezzlement and forgery — all class C felonies, and each count is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or both, according to court documents.

Pati was caught yesterday at the District Court building when he showed up to get his court clearance to renew his immigration ID. A court official, when searching court computer records for clearance, found that there is a pending warrant of arrest for the defendant from the wahoo case in which other individuals — including former Samoa Packing employees —were already charged and their cases have already gone through the judicial process.

It was just after 9 a.m. when the defendant was stopped and taken directly into the District Court for his initial appearance.

It remains unclear how the defendant has been able to initially obtain an immigration ID or renew it, when there is a pending warrant.

District Court John Ward II has given the government until this Friday to find out if they can move this case forward when Samoa Packing is no longer in business in the territory and the lead investigator in the case is no longer with the Department of Public Safety.

Bail for Pati is set at $5,000 and he returns Friday for his preliminary examination hearing.

According to court documents, Samoa Packing had contacted police on Jan.  9, 2007 saying that the company had seized several cases of wahoo that were allegedly stolen from the cannery and sold to Asian businesses in exchange for money and beer. A major concern for the company was that the majority of the cans were labeled wahoo but contained albacore instead.

The case came to the company’s attention after the husband of an employee found problems with a purchase made at a local store, in which the cans were mislabeled using the Samoa Packing label but a different bar-code, belonging to another cannery. It was later revealed that some of the cases were not wahoo at all, but were labeled as wahoo and sold at several stores from the town area to the western district.

The government claims that about 313 cases of wahoo were involved in the scheme and each case was sold for about $28 or $30 with total money collected at $9,390. For the loose cans sold separately the government believes some $6,260 was collected.

Total loss to the cannery  was more than $15,000, according to court documents.

Several people, including former company employees, were interviewed by police and among those interviewed was a man who told authorities that Pati hired his truck to “transport stolen cases of product”.

The man told police that he would wait for Pati to throw the cases over the cannery fence to be placed in the truck and the pair sold 13 cases and 48 cans to an Asian store. Pati also took the “items to his home where the cans were re-labeled... and then sold them.”

Samoa News reporter Ausage Fausia contributed to this report.



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