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USPS employee charged with two counts of stealing

reporters@samoanews.com

A female post office employee, Lamala Lorraine Tufele, who used her position with the United States Post Office (USPS) to gain access to mail with ATM cards, which she allegedly drew cash from without authorization, made her initial appearance in District Court late yesterday morning.

Tufele was served with the arrest warrant by detectives from the Criminal Investigation Division while she was on duty, and was escorted to the District Court from her workplace. Her lawyer, Sharron Rancourt, accompanied Tufele to the court.

She is charged with two counts of stealing and is being held on bail of $10,000.

Each stealing count is a class C felony, which carries a jail term of up to seven years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, a fine equal to twice the amount gained from the commission of the said crime up to the maximum of $20,000- or both fine and imprisonment.

According to the government’s case, the defendant is a federal employee with the USPS as a mail distribution clerk, mail sorter and customer service clerk. It’s alleged that last year November, Tufele gained access to mail, which contained two Bank of Hawai’i credit cards and personal information of the two complaining witnesses.

Court documents state that the incident came to light when both victims filed complaints with the Bank of Hawai’i that their bank cards were being used by an unknown person to withdraw $200 from each ATM card separately.

Court documents state that the first victim’s ATM card was used at the BOH ATM at Tafuna branch on November 15, 2011. The second victim’s ATM card was used December 16, 2011 at the Laufou Shopping center ATM.

Court documents state that Tufele’s photo was captured at both ATMs where she is alleged to have withdrawn the money. According to the government’s case when Tufele met with Captain Lavata’i Ta’ase Sagapolutele, who explained to her what the investigation unveiled regarding the unauthorized withdrawals, Tufele was asked if she had any information. It is alleged that she simply nodded her head indicating a negative reply, according to court documents.

It’s alleged when Captain Lavata’i showed the defendant the photos from the ATM machines, and asked if she knew the woman in the photo, the defendant glanced at the picture and allegedly said “a picture is a picture”.

Tufele was remanded into the custody of police after she made her initial appearance in District Court and was transported by CID detectives to the Tafuna Correctional facility.

The defendant is scheduled to appear in District Court today to determine if she will have a preliminary examination (PX) hearing. This hearing is for the court to determine if the government has sufficient evidence to have this case bound over to the High Court.



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