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MAMOE VAOGA JAILED FOR FORGERY

A man who forged his paycheck to a higher amount when he was terminated, was released from jail yesterday following his sentencing that was handed down by Associate Justice Lyle L.  Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

Vaoga was initially charged with stealing and two counts of forgery for making and altering his paycheck, however in a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pleaded guilty to stealing and forgery (making) while the other count of forgery (altering) was dismissed.

Stealing and Forgery are both class C felonies, which are punishable by up to seven years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from commission of the said crime up to $20,000 or both fine and imprisonment.

The defendant apologized to the court, the government, the Atlas company and his family for his actions which landed him in jail. The defendant pleaded with the court for another chance to return to his wife to uphold his fatherly duties.

Assistant Public Defender Michael White asked the court to place the defendant on probation given that he has five children with one on the way. White stated that the defendant has been in jail for three months and it’s his first offense. Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Hyde did not object to the request by the defense attorney, but asked the court to order the defendant to pay restitution.

The Associate Justice sentenced Vaoga to seven years in jail however execution of sentencing was suspended and he’s placed on probation for seven years under certain conditions, which included remaining a law abiding citizen, visit the probation office regularly and not consuming any alcohol or controlled substance.

Richmond released Vaoga yesterday and ordered him to pay a fine of $500 and restitution of $1,000.

According to the government’s case the managers of the Atlas Construction — Filioali’i Ioane Laumatia and So’otaga Fuala’au — filed a complaint at the Tafuna West Substation accusing Vaoga of forging his paycheck to reflect a larger amount.

According to the government’s case the defendant was intoxicated while working which led to his being terminated from his job on November 2, 2011. Two days later he received his last paycheck of $151.74.  However, the defendant altered the check and then cashed it at the ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank.

 The defendant told police he was frustrated when he was caught being intoxicated and terminated.  He told police that since it was his last paycheck from Atlas Construction he decided to make changes to it.

TONGAN NATIONAL WARNED THAT DRUG LAWS ARE A SERIOUS OFFENSE

Chief Justice Michael Kruse warned Hefa Pahe a Tongan National that breaking drug laws in the territory is a serious crime when he handed down sentencing for the defendant.  Pahe’s sentencing was scheduled for Thursday, however it had to be moved to Friday (yesterday), as Kruse had subpoenaed Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Ufuti Fa’afetai Ieremia regarding the immigration status of the drug defendant.

The defendant’s sentencing was scheduled for Thursday, but it was continued to Friday because the defendant’s immigration report was not attached to the probation report as ordered by the Chief Justice.

Ufuti apologized to the court because he did not get the request from the probation office until June 28th. Ufuti explained that the defendant came to the territory in 2008 as a crew member of a fishing boat and according to immigration laws, anyone entering the territory as a crew member, their status in the territory is legal.

Ufuti said the defendant’s legal sponsor is “KS Company”. Kruse asked Ufuti if crew members can reside on land, and the Chief Probation Office said no. “They can only live on the vessel”.  The Chief Justice noted that according to the probation report, the defendant came to the territory in 2004.

Pahe is charged with one count of unlawful possession of controlled substance of marijuana, and he has pled guilty.  He apologized to the government of American Samoa for violating the laws of the territory.

Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi asked the court for a probated sentenced for her client, noting the marijuana involved, was a very small quantity. She added the defendant has been gainfully employed for majority of his life and his employer noted that he is a dependable worker.

Fuatagavi said the defendant bond was paid by his employers. Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag also recommended probation for the defendant in this matter.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced the defendant to five years in jail, however execution of sentencing is suspended and he’s placed on five year probation under several conditions. Kruse ordered the defendant to pay a fine of $5,000 however the court stayed $3,000 given that the defendant will abide by the conditions of his probation. Kruse warned the defendant that drugs laws in the territory are a serious matter.

The defendant was ordered to remain a law abiding citizen. Kruse made it clear to the defendant that he must remain clean from alcohol and controlled substances. The defendant was also ordered not to import any illegal substance into the territory. The Chief Justice told the defendant that upon returning from his fishing trips he must sign in at the probation office.

The charges stems from a public peace disturbance calls which the police responded to and Pahe was one of the defendants, however when he was searched at the police station a marijuana joint was in his pocket.  Pahe was one of three co-defendants who have already been sentenced and are both placed on five year’s probation.

DRUG DEFENDANT FILES MOTION TO SUPRESS A SEARCH WARRANT

Drug defendant Romeo Peretania has filed a suppression motion with the High Court regarding the search warrant which the police used at the defendant’s residence.  Peretania is held on a bail of $150,000, and he is facing one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute, resisting arrest and public peace disturbance.

According to the motion, the affidavit in support of the Search Warrant failed to lay out sufficient facts concerning the credibility of the informant or the reliability of his information to support a finding of probable cause.

“The information obtained from the Confidential Informant was old and did not support a finding of probable cause at the time that the warrant was issued” says the motion.

The motion further stated that the affidavit does not contain sufficient facts to support a finding of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.  The motion alleges that the defendant’s property was searched without probable cause and in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Revised Constitution of American Samoa.

A hearing on this matter is scheduled for September 18, 2012. According to the government’s case when police executed a search warrant on Peretania, they confiscated 12 small baggies containing methamphetamine and a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine was found in Peretania’s pocket.

$226 cash was also found in his possession.  It’s alleged that police physically struggled with Peretania while trying to place him in handcuffs.  He is also accused of swearing at police officers.

The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender pair are represented by the public defender’s office while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.

PROBATION HEARING OF MOSE TIMOTEO

The High Court yesterday held a probation review hearing for a man who was sentenced in the 2008 killing of his father in Pago Pago village. Mose Jr Timoteo was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment in 2009.

Timoteo Jr. was originally charged with first degree murder in the stabbing of his father in August 2008.  In a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to manslaughter, a lesser charge. 

During the probation hearing yesterday, Chief Probation Officer, (CPO) Silivelio Iosefo assured the court the defendant has been in compliance with all of the conditions of his probation and asked the court to modify the condition of the defendant’s probation.

He noted, the defendant’s visit to the probation office is up to date and he’s also attending his appointments with a psychiatrist. The CPO asked the court to allow the defendant to visit the probation office once a month instead of twice a month, which Chief Justice Michael Kruse granted.

Among several court hearings held on this matter in the past, then Assistant Attorney General Lisa Teesch-Maguire said the defendant has paranoid schizophrenia and takes medication for his illness.  A mental health evaluation was also conducted for the defendant by the LBJ psychiatrist.

The defendant has told police that he suffers from a mental illness and when his episodes occur, he gets upset with his father, according to court documents.

In 2009 Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced the defendant to seven years in prison, which was suspended on the condition that he serve 28 months in prison without release except by prior order from the court or for medical emergency or outpatient mental service as required by a physician.

The probation office was also ordered to regularly check to make sure that this order is carried out and that the defendant has access to medical/ mental care as needed and required. The defendant was also ordered to adhere to all his mental/ medical treatments.



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