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Retired Post Office employee faces charges of theft and embezzlement

reporters@samoanews.com

A retired Post Office employee is facing criminal charges in connection with the alleged theft of money and postage stamps belonging to the Post Office back in 2009. Nikolao Fa’asala is facing charges of embezzlement, stealing and responsibility for the conduct of another to commit forgery.

Attorney Mark Ude, who represents the defendant, said the money in question ($2,977.06) has already been paid back to the Post office. The defense lawyer said that prosecution for his client, who is a retired post office employee, gives a signal to everyone that despite cooperating with the investigation, it means nothing to the authorities.

“Apparently he paid the money back, he cooperated with the investigation, and yet my client was still charged,” said Ude.

The defendant made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday. The initial bail for the defendant was set at $10,000 however it was reduced to $3,500.

According to the government’s case the investigation was conducted by the Federal government, and later referred to the Attorney General’s office for local prosecution. In the report that was handed to the AG’s office, it is alleged that the defendant stole money and postage stamps from the Post office from January to September 2009.

The report further alleged that around May 2009 the late Smitty McMoore, who was Postmaster of the American Samoa Post Office at the time, conducted audits for the defendant and falsified his audit report to conceal the acts of theft, according to court filings.

Court filings state that McMoore was required by postal financial accounting procedures to periodically audit the retail mail clerks who serviced customers. The defendant held a retail mail clerk position, where he charged customers postage for mail delivery and sold stamps and other postal merchandise. Part of their daily duties included that they maintain and be accountable for their own cash drawers, which contained postal funds and stamp stock.

According to the government’s case the defendant removed $1,800 in cash and stamps from his drawer from January to March 2009. The shortage was discovered in March 2009 when Postmaster McMoore conducted an audit on the defendant’s drawer.

Court filing says then Postmaster told the defendant to pay back the money, however the defendant didn’t comply. On May 04, 2009 then postmaster McMoore conducted another audit and the defendant shortage was more than $2,000 however, then Postmaster filled out a “Cash and Stamp Stock Count and Summary” audit report reflecting the defendant’s cash was over $0.67and this report was signed by the defendant.

This report was recorded by then postmaster McMoore in the American Samoa Post Office financial audit schedule, and was later submitted to the USPS Honolulu District Office.

 Court filings state that Postmaster McMoore received a letter from Jodi Nascimento who was acting Manager for the Post Office Operations Honolulu District on May 07, 2007 concerning the overdue financial audits. According to the government’s case sometime after the letter was sent, The US Postal Service District Manager in Honolulu Hawaii visited the local post office along with Russell James who was postmaster in Honolulu.

Honolulu Postmaster Russell was asked to make periodic visits to the Post office in the territory and conduct audits.

On September 08, 2009 Russell audited the defendant’s drawer and discovered a shortage of $2,977.06, says court filings. It’s alleged that after two days Russell interviewed the defendant and he admitted to taking the money and stamps from his own drawer. Court filings say that the defendant explained that he handed out stamps to his friends and he was paid at a later time and he would pocket some of the money and place the reminder back in his drawer.

On September 11, 2009 Special Agent Kevin Shimoda with the Office of the Inspector General initiated the investigation. It’s alleged that on the same day, the Postal Management in Honolulu issued the defendant a “Letter of Demand for Indebtedness for Employee Accountable Credit Shortage”.

This letter notified the defendant that the Postal Service was intent on collecting $2,977.06 for the defendant’s accountability shortage found by the financial audit.

On October 23, 2009 the Postal Service received a payment of $2,9977.06 from the defendant.

Preliminary examination for the defendant has been scheduled for next week Monday. This hearing is for the court to determine whether prosecution has enough evidence to have this matter bound over to the High Court. Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Folau is prosecuting this matter.



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