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Former Poly airline employee admits she embezzled

But “didn’t know how much”
reporters@samoanews.com

A former Polynesian Airline acting manager based in Pago Pago and charged in connection with the alleged theft of more than $10,000, admitted in court that she embezzled money from the Airline.

Judy Mata’utia’s admission that she used monies that passengers had paid to the airline for tickets, was rendered during a plea agreement hearing yesterday morning.

Mata’utia was initially charged with embezzlement and passing bad checks, however the plea deal with the government had the defendant pleading guilty to embezzlement while the passing of bad checks charge was dismissed.

The embezzlement charge is a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both fine and imprisonment.

According to the plea agreement, the defendant admits that she embezzled monies from the Samoa Government owned airline from March 2010 to October 2011.

The defendant, who is out on bail, also agreed to pay back Polynesian Airlines in the amount of $11,380.44. Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr accepted the plea agreement.

Richmond asked the defendant to explain in her own words what she did to commit this crime. The defendant said she took the money. When asked how much money was involved, Mata’utia responded, she does not know.

Prior to accepting the plea agreement Richmond told the defendant that the court may or may not take into consideration the recommendations made by the defense or government on her behalf and if the court accepts the plea deal and renders sentencing which the defendant may not be happy with, she may not come back and ask to withdraw her guilty plea.

The defendant noted she understood the conditions of the plea agreement. According to court documents, Mata’utia was acting area manager for Polynesian Airline's office in Pago Pago between March and October of 2010, when the crime allegedly occurred.

According to the government’s case, Mata’utia used the money for her personal use and allegedly fabricated bank deposit slips and forwarded the deposit slips to the airline’s main office in Samoa.

The incident came to light when the airline's manager at the Apia office saw one deposit slip was submitted twice and out of suspicion the airline obtained bank records and statements during its probe and discovered the discrepancies.

Court documents state that in one incident the defendant allegedly removed $2,600 for her personal use and then fabricated a deposit slip for $1,938 in cash and six checks — totaling $2,600.

The affidavit further alleges that in at least three incidents, Mata’utia would make a bank deposit and then ask for two deposit receipts. Mata’utia would later alter the duplicate of the deposit receipts to reflect a different date.

The affidavit states there were two other incidents in which Matautia took cash from Polynesian — totaling around $4,000 —replacing that money with two checks from the same church. Also cited in the affidavit was an incident in which the defendant took close to $2,000 in cash from Polynesian and used another individual’s checks to cover this amount.

According to the government the defendant is also charged with one count of passing bad checks by writing six checks from her personal bank account, which had already been closed.

The checks, made out to Polynesian Airlines, were allegedly used to balance some of the cash she allegedly took from the deposits.

Mata’utia is represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.



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