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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

TWO INMATES CHARGED FOR ESCAPING FROM JAIL 

Pouniu Liu and Derek Ropati are each facing one count of escaping from confinement, a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. The pair made their initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning.

According to the government’s case, on April 13, 2011 Detectives with the Criminal Investigation Division were informed that two inmates had escaped from the Tafuna Correctional Facility.

Court filings say, TCF Sgt Sami Tamau noted that inmates were guided to the prayer service where the counting of inmates was underway to find out that Ropati and Liu were missing. One inmate informed a police guard that Ropati and Liu were seen pulling up barbed wire at the fence behind one of the units.

According to the government’s case, police received tips that Ropati and Liu were at Ropati’s sister’s house and police responded to the tip to find the inmates there, where they were apprehended.

Court filings state the police interviewed Ropati who admitted that Liu had told him that he could not take the long sentence he was facing in jail and wanted to escape. Ropati agreed to escape for his own personal reasons, saying that they had been served contaminated food at the jail.

In an interview with police, Liu admitted that he escaped from TCF because he wanted to help his family out with the chores at home and get a job. He also complained about the bad food served at TCF.

Ropati and Liu are both convicted felons. Preliminary Examination hearings are scheduled for the pair later this week.

HYMIE SEFO ENTERS GUILTY PLEA, HOWEVER MATTER STILL SET FOR TRIAL

The High Court has yet to rule on a plea agreement that was read in open court between the government and Hymie Sefo.

Sefo is charged in connection with two cases — one at Leone High School and the other at Kruse Store in Leone. In the Leone High School case, Sefo is charged with receiving stolen property. He faces  first degree burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary in the first degree and stealing in connection with the case at the Kruse store in Leone.

The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin while prosecuting for the government is Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.

According to the plea agreement that was read in court the defendant would enter his guilty plea to receiving stolen property and upon his guilty plea the government will move to dismiss all the charges against the defendant in the Kruse Store case. 

Following the rendering of Sefo’s guilty plea, Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond asked the prosecutor why the government is moving forward to dismiss the charges in connection with the Kruse Store case.

Prosecutor Reyna explained that the government's three main witnesses are off island and it’s not clear when they will return.

The Associate Justice, who was accompanied on the bench with Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr, following a brief recess, noted the court will set this matter for trial on June 25, 2013, to see if by then the witnesses will be back on Island.

According to the plea that was read in court, Sefo admitted that he received a laptop from Mu Matu’u a co-defendant. In his plea the defendant admitted that he did not want to be caught with a stolen laptop so he threw that laptop away. The defendant also agreed that he would pay $1400 restitution to the Department of Education.

The government's case against Sefo in connection with the burglary of the FJP Kruse Inc Store in Leone two years ago, states that Sefo was involved. The culprits allegedly entered through the side door where a wooden safe vault was pried open and close to $600 in coins were taken.

The court affidavit states that Sefo was terminated from Kruse’s store three months prior to the break in.

MAN CHARGED FOR STEALING ATM CARD

A man made his initial appearance in the District Court today on two counts of stealing, one charge of attempted stealing and three charges of fraudulent use of a credit device. Reupena Reupena is accused of stealing a credit card and using it.

According to the government’s case, on August 11, 2011 a woman reported to police that her Bank of Hawai’i ATM card was lost and being used. She told police her wallet, containing her identification cards, ATM card and important documents, was left at the Leone High School on August 8, 2011 around 9 a.m. and she only realized her wallet was missing during lunch time.

The complaining witness told police she had already informed Bank of Hawaii that her card was stolen, and she was told that her card had been used for a $140 transaction but it was denied.

In addition the victim was told that her card was swiped several times however the transactions were denied due to insufficient funds.

Court filings state that she was told by the bank that the $140 transaction went through and her account was overdrawn in the amount of $175 due to a transaction at the Nu’uuli Service Station.

The victim proceeded to the Nu’uuli service station where she was referred to the Island Lubricants Office says court documents.

Court filings state that the manager at Island Lubricants Office told the victim they were searching for the owner of the ATM Card, because their former employee Reupena asked if he could use his friend’s card to take some money from the gas station credit card machine, and they gave him permission because they trusted him, given that he was an employee.

According to the government’s case, the manager stated that they became suspicious after realizing that Reupena had made three transactions totaling $300.

It's alleged the manager asked Reupena to come into the office with the person who owned the card but he didn’t come to work again, and he was therefore terminated.

Court filings state that Reupena was interviewed by police who told them he was asked by a man name Sefo if he could get cash from his workplace credit card machine.

Reupena said the man asked him to withdraw $300 from the account on the debit card and given that the machine only allows for transactions up to $100,  he swiped the card two times for $100 each and then Sefo gave him $20 for gas.

Reupena informed police of where Sefo lived, however when police visited this residence they were told that Sefo had not lived there for nearly two years. Police contacted Reupena and informed him that he had given them wrong information regarding Sefo’s whereabouts and police asked the defendant to come to the police station.

Court filings state that after arriving at the police station, the defendant refused to make a statement to police.



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