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Former DoH employees sentenced to jail time for stealing and forgery

joy@samoanews.com

Two former female employees with the Department of Health were sentenced to serve three months in jail, on allegations that one defendant had altered an ASG payroll check and deposited it into her co-defendant’s account.
 
The pair, Taufau Maxine Sagale and Sieni Paopao Ioapo were each charged with forgery and stealing, however in a plea agreement with the government, the defendant Ioapo pled guilty to attempted stealing, amended from the stealing charge while the forgery count was dismissed as per the agreement. As part of a separate plea agreement, Sagale pled guilty to the forgery charge. Sagele was represented by the Public Defender’s office.
 
The attempted stealing count is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or a fine up to twice the amount gained from the commission of the crime. During sentencing, Ioapo apologized for her actions noting that she’s never attempted before to take the easy way out and this was a one- time mistake.
 
She told the court that she has several people who depend on her, including her six-year-old son.
 
Her attorney, Richard Desaulles pointed out to the court that this was Ioapo’s first offense and that she has resigned from her post at DOH. The defense lawyer said that the funds that were deposited into Ioapo’s account are still in the account, which has been frozen, and according to the off island bank, they are waiting for ASG to withdraw the funds.
 
He also pointed out that Ioapo did not benefit financially from this and asked the court for leniency. The defense lawyer said Ioapo was less culpable than her companion, who had used Ioapo to fraudulently obtain money belonging to ASG. He also pointed out that Ioapo’s supervisor from DOH had sent a letter noting that this action was not consistent with Ioapo’s character, along with a recommendation by the government for leniency in this matter.
 
Sagale was in tears when rendering her apology to the court noting that she’s full of remorse. She also apologized to her family for her actions, which ridiculed the family’s good name and asked the court for leniency when handing down sentencing.
 
Judge Richmond sentenced the pair to five years in prison, however the execution of the sentence was suspended and they were both placed on probation for five years under certain conditions.  One of those conditions was that they serve 20 months in jail, however the court suspended 17 months of jail time, meaning the pair must each serve three months and pay a fine of $1,000.
 
They were authorized for work release if gainfully employed, and must pay restitution in an amount rendered by ASG.  They must also serve three months of community service under direction of the Probation Office.
 
According to the government’s case, a Treasury Department Official informed Criminal Investigation Division Detective Sgt Falema’i Paepule that a monthly reconciliation by the Treasury Department revealed that a duplicate transaction had occurred with one payroll check. The government’s case claims that a transaction had occurred with an “altered fraudulent payroll check” for $2,400 that was deposited into an account that belonged to Ioapo.
 
Court filings say there were two checks, the first check for Ioapo in the amount of $131.02 was the authorized check, while the other check ($2,400) was an “altered and unauthorized ASG payroll check”. The checks were both listed in the name of the defendant’s colleague. Police saw the two checks in question — which had the same check number of 1819175 bearing Ioapo’s name — when she was employed by the government.
 
The government’s case claims that Ioapo informed police she knew everything happened when this transaction was initiated because she needed the money to pay for her son’s tuition for school. She alleged it was into her account that the $2,400 was deposited.
 
Court filings say Ioapo told police that her colleague Sagale “helped” her with the transaction and did the e-deposit into her account; and when the deposit “kicked” in to her account she told Sagale to go with her to withdraw the money. Ioapo further stated she withdrew $200 and gave $100 to Sagale.
 
Court filings say Sagale also admitted she had helped Ioapo who had “approached” her asking for financial assistance. “I told her I did not have any money but I knew a way to get some. I told her that she can only do it once because I (Sagale) got caught once and I am still paying $250 — deducted from my payroll check.” 
 
Court filings allege Sagale said, “I did all the work and Ioapo helped me.”

 
Sagale further told police she typed in $2,400 and showed Ioapo how to do the e-deposit to her account. Court filings say Sagale told police she had done this before, and had e-deposited approximately $12,000 into her account.
 
She said when she got caught she paid up front $5,000 and has since been paying for the rest. (Samoa News should point out that court documents do not identify the office where either woman works at DoH; and, there is also no explanation as to how the fraudulent e-deposits were possible.)
 



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