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Chief Justice concerned over increase in women charged with stealing money

reporters@samoanews.com

The court has raised concerns about the increased number of females coming before the court who are charged with stealing or misappropriating money that doesn’t belong to them.

In particular, the issue of sentencing was the focus of Chief Justice Michael Kruse’s remarks during the case of Naomi Mavaega, who has been convicted of stealing a woman’s purse, using $40 found within, and attempting to use the victim’s credit card.

The Chief Justice, during Mavaega’s sentencing hearing, noted that a majority of the women currently coming before the court are accused of stealing money in one way or another.

He added that this has been happening a lot and it’s difficult for the court to render  appropriate sentences with what is recommended by the parties. He said during sentencing, both parties are asking the court for leniency, because these women are first time offenders.

However, Kruse said he believes the court should render sentences which will deter the public from repeating this crime.

The CJ noted that two months ago the Department of Public Safety officers arrested and charged women, citing their criminal conduct involved stealing money, forging documents to get the money, stealing ATM cards and credit cards to get money, and this includes the two women charged with stealing while they were working for a local insurance company.

Two other women took more than $10,000 which was paid for an insurance policy for vehicles, while another one is accused of using monies paid for an insurance policy for victim’s parents without handing the money over to the company.

The Chief Justice said in the case against Mavaega, she met the victim — an elderly woman — at the hospital who was there to see the doctor. When the defendant’s phone rang, she got up and saw the victim’s purse and grabbed her purse along with the victim’s wallet and went home. She used $40 in the wallet and attempted to use the victim’s credit card to purchase tires to pay for money that she owed a taxi stand owner.

Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin who represents the defendant pleaded with the court for leniency. The Assistant PD noted that Mavaega seemed to be having financial issues and not only did she owe money to a taxi stand owner but she was also trying to care for an infant baby and satisfy other family obligations.

Cardin put it to the court that the defendant has an infant baby who is breastfed and the defendant should be with her baby to care for and feed.

The CJ asked the prosecutor for her comments on how the defendant would be able to care for her baby while she’s in jail.

Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Hyde responded _____that the defendant has to pay for the consequences of her actions, and the defendant should be the one to figure out how to care for her child while incarcerated.

The Chief Justice then postponed the matter while the court and Probation Office seek a solution to the request by the defense. Sentencing for Mavaega has been scheduled for December 4, 2012.

Mavaega was initially charged with stealing and fraudulent use of a credit device, however in a plea agreement the defendant pled guilty to fraudulent use of a credit device while the government moved to dismiss the stealing count.

The fraud count is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, a fine equal to the amount gained up to $20,000, or both fine and imprisonment.

The plea agreement that was struck between the defendant and the government has the defendant agreeing to pay back $40 to the victim for restitution.



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