Former Customs Officer Maluia given six-weekend jail term
Former Customs Officer Francis Maluia, who was criminally summoned on a single count of Interference with Customs Officer’s Duties, yesterday pled guilty to the count as a result of months of negotiations between the parties.
The count to which he pled guilty is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a jail term of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000 or both fine and jail time.
Maluia of Nu’uuli, who has been with Customs for eleven years, was charged in September last year and made his initial appearance in the District Court on Oct. 8, 2013.
The matter was held yesterday before District Court Judge John Ward, who accepted the plea agreement. During sentencing, the defendant apologized for his actions to the government, the court and the Customs and Treasury Office for his criminal conduct. He further apologized to his family. Defendant was represented by Fiti Sunia, who asked the court for leniency and for a fine. He asked that the court not impose jail time in this matter.
Prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Lornalei Meredith Fanene, who asked the court to sentence the defendant to jail for two weeks.
Ward sentenced the defendant to six months in jail, however he suspended the execution of sentence and placed Maluia on two years probation. He was also fined $1,000, which was deffered on good behavior.
Maluia was ordered detainment for 90 days, however the court then ordered a six weekend jail term while the remaining jail term was stayed. The jail term is from 6p.m. Friday to 6p.m. Sunday evening.
According to the government’s case, Police Captain Pierre Clemens was assigned to investigate the allegations against Maluia, who allegedly removed a parcel from the post office without proper due process on April 3, 2013. Clemens heads the Department of Public Safety’s Internal Affairs Division.
Court filings say the leading investigator in this case spoke to the Customs Officer at the Post Office about the day in question. It’s alleged that Customs Officers Rene Malepeai and David Ta’ala informed police that Maluia came to the post office while in uniform and claimed a box addressed to a “Baby Bee from a Kalua.” Court filings further say Maluia claimed he was picking up the package for a nephew.
It’s further alleged that Malepeai told Maluia that the box needed to be inspected because it was sniffed and subsequently tagged by the canine unit for inspection, however Maluia allegedly refused to surrender the box, stating it only contained clothes.
“Malepeai told defendant two more times to surrender the box for inspection, but defendant did not surrender the box.” The government claims that when Malepeai asked for the third time, Maluia still did not surrender the box rather, he “only partially opened it while cradling the box in one arm saying, ‘It’s just clothes’.”
It’s alleged Maluia then left the post office without surrendering the parcel for inspection. Court filings say the lead investigator also interviewed a Post Office Clerk who confirmed the incident. The government claims the investigation also found that the package had been sent to a P.O. box which did not belong to Maluia, and the address from which the package had been sent did not belong to a person named Kalua.
“The exact address in Washington either belongs to a Church’s Chicken Restaurant or to an open lot between the restaurant and a gas station.
Last year in September, Maluia was served with a termination letter and was given three days to respond. Samoa News understands that Maluia, instead of responding to the termination letter, submitted a resignation letter. Treasurer Dr. Falema’o Phil Pili, in response to Samoa News queries at that time, stated he would not honor the resignation letter, but would follow through with the termination. Then Maluia fought his case before the Administrative Law Judge.
The incident involving Maluia led to the termination of former Chief of Customs, Vaetagaloa Glen Lefiti, as he had not reported this incident immediately to the Treasurer.
Vaetagaloa challenged the matter with the Administrative Law Judge and as a result, his termination by ASG was overturned, which led to Vaetagaloa’s reinstatement as an employee of the treasury department.
This incident involving Maluia was only reported to the Treasurer after Samoa News asked the former Chief for Customs for comments on the matter.