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Former insurance agent given 28 months in jail for embezzlement, theft

reporters@samoanews.com

Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced former South Seas Insurance agent Katerina Siliga of Afono to 28 months in jail as part of her seven year sentence.
 
Siliga was originally charged in three separate cases, where she faced three counts of embezzlement and one count of felony stealing. In a plea agreement with the government the defendant pled guilty to two counts of embezzlement and one count of felony stealing, while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charge as part of the plea agreement.
 
Kruse sentenced Siliga to seven years and fined her $1,000 for each of the three offenses to which she had plead guilty, however these are to run concurrently. Kruse suspended the execution of the prison sentences for seven years, and placed her on probation for seven years under certain conditions.
 
As one condition of her probation, she is required to serve a period of detention of twenty eight months without any release whatsoever except for genuine medical emergency or prior order of the court. She is also required to make restitution to the victims in the amounts determined by the Office of Probation and after six months in detention, Siliga may request from the court an order permitting out her on a work-release program, however she has to prove to the court at such a hearing that she has found gainful employment. Kruse told the defendant that family farming is not considered a job.
 
Siliga was first charged on allegations that she misappropriated  money for life insurance policy of a couple who reside in Savai’i. According to the government’s case two sisters went to South Seas Insurance to inquire about their parents who live in Savaii where they met with a senior insurance agent who later flew to Savaii to meet their parents and take pictures.
 
It's alleged after the senior insurance agent returned from Savaii he prepared the paperwork for the insurance policy, which he gave to the defendant. Siliga is alleged to have taken the insurance policy to the victims to sign, which they did. It’s alleged the defendant picked up the victim’s initial payment of $240 for the policy on November 25, 2011.
 
The government claims the defendant agreed to pick up payments from the victim every month from November to July. The victims said that they always asked the defendant for receipts, but she always said she would get them to him later, however they were given any receipts.
 
One of the victims told police she made monthly payments of $120 from November 2011 through June 2012 and in July she made a payment of $60. It was alleged that Siliga had picked up those payments each month.
 
The government claimed that on August 2012, the victim heard that Siliga was arrested so she contacted the South Seas Insurance inquiring about their parents’ insurance policy.
 
The senior insurance agent told the victim that there was no insurance policy in the name of their parents and suggested that the defendant may have thrown away the paperwork after they signed it. 
 
Police interviewed the defendant who said she takes the blame for what happened and had already spoken to the victims about paying them back. Siliga told police that she got a quote for an insurance policy for the victim’s parents last year around May or June 2011 and upon completing the paperwork, she took it to victims to sign, but the paperwork never made it back to South Seas Insurance.
 
Siliga admitted to police that from November 2011 to June 2012 she used all the money she received from the two victims that was supposed to be payments for the insurance. 
 
The second case against the defendant was initiated when a man filed a complaint with the East Substation reporting that he had applied for a life insurance policy for his father through Siliga.
 
It is alleged the defendant told the complaining witness the payment would be $84.20 per month starting in May 2011, which was when the complaining witness began to make payments. 
 
Court filings state that in August 2011 the defendant informed the victim that the premium increased to $127.78 which the defendant paid until June 2012. 
 
The complaining witness told police he asked for receipt of his payments and the defendant gave him three receipts for the payments of September, October and November last year. 
 
The government claims that in May 2012 the complaining witness’s father passed away and the victim immediately contacted the defendant. It’s alleged the defendant told the complaining witness that he needs to continue making payments until they could provide a death certificate. 
 
Court filings state that a death certificate was provided to the defendant and when the victim contacted the defendant on the status of his father’s life insurance the defendant told him that her boss was off-island. 
 
On July 2012 the victim went to the South Seas Insurance Company to inquire about the status of his father’s life insurance policy, and that was when he was told that they did not have a policy on his father and that the receipts provided are not the receipts that the South Seas Insurance company uses. 
 
Court filings state that on August 17, 2012 the victim met with the defendant who apologized and stated that she used the money with a friend named Mili. The defendant assured the victim that she was selling her pick-up truck and she will pay the victim back. 
 
The investigating officer contacted the defendant, who was already incarcerated and she refused to make a statement. 
 
The police also contacted the defendant’s friend whom she mentioned but the friend told police she had nothing to do with the defendant’s situation. The victim then contacted the police, saying that on October 12, 2012 around noon, the defendant called him from the TCF. 
 
She asked the victim for forgiveness and said when she gets out of jail, she will pay the victim back. “The defendant begged the victim to withdraw his complaint and not to press charges,” say court filings. 
 
Siliga made her initial appearance yesterday and will be arraigned in High Court today after waiving her right to a preliminary examination in District Court. It’s alleged the amount of money the victim paid for his father’s insurance policy totaled $1,019.28.
 
The last case against the defendant accuses her of taking money from two women who gave the defendant a total amount of $900 so she could buy K-fares from Hawaiian Airlines for the two victims.
 
The government alleges that there were no K-fares, and the defendant used part of the money for her personal use. She returned $700 reimbursement to one woman, $50 to the other woman, but still owes the amount of $200. The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Hyde.
 



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