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Former Poly Air employee charged with embezzlement

reporters@samoanews.com

A former Polynesian Airlines employee in Pago Pago has been charged in District Court in the alleged theft of more than $10,000 in money belonging to the carrier, which is owned by the government of Samoa government.

According to court documents, defendant Judy Mata’utia was acting area manager for Polynesian Airlines’ office in Pago Pago between March and October of 2010, when the crime allegedly occurred before she was terminated.

Matautia, who was officially charged yesterday in District Court, is facing one count of embezzlement for the alleged misappropriation of about $11,380 that passengers had paid to the airline for travel.

Punishment for embezzlement, a class C felony, is 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.

The government alleges that the defendant used the money for herself after fabricating bank deposit slips and forwarding those deposit records to the airline’s Apia office, where the discrepancies were discovered. The airline’s main office was able to obtain bank records and statements during its probe.

A seven-page court affidavit outlines dates and amounts of money involved in each discrepancy. For example, it is alleged the defendant 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, the defendant would make a bank deposit and then ask for two deposit receipts. She would later alter the duplicate of the deposit receipts to reflect a different date.

In another incident cited in the affidavit, a legitimate deposit in the amount of $1,074 in cash was not reported by the defendant and was used to off-set a fabricated banking deposit totaling $2,210.

Sometime in 2010, the affidavit says, a church made a check payment of $1,233 to its account with Polynesian Airlines for travel but it was never recorded in the airline’s receipt book, although bank records later showed that it was deposited.

The affidavit alleges that Matautia deposited the church check in the bank but didn’t issue a receipt — as required by company policy — in order to  balance the sales account for the Pago Pago office.

It further alleges that Matautia prepared the deposit slip and counted off $1,233 from the airline’s monies and inserted the church check into the deposit slip to fill up the gap while removing the cash amount consistent with the check amount and pocketing it for personal use.

The affidavit states there were two other incidents in which Matautia took cash from Polynesian Airlines — 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 Airlines 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 that she allegedly took from the deposits.

Bail for Mata’utia, who was in charge of the office at the time of the alleged crime, is set for $10,000 and she returns later in the week for another court appearance.

(Samoan version of this story, “Tuuaia se tama’ita’i i le faaaoga tupe kamupani” is in today’s Le Lali section.)



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