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BREAKING NEWS: Judge sentences Pase to 14 months for theft of federal grants

The sister of American Samoa’s lieutenant governor was sentenced today at the federal court in Washington D.C. in connection with the theft of federal grants awarded to the American Samoa Special Services Commission by AmeriCorps.

Mine S. Pase, 63, the younger sister of Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia, pled guilty last November to conspiracy to steal more than $325,000. Pase  served as executive director for the commission from March 2001 to October 2010.

At today’s hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton sentenced Pase to 14 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and restitution of over $300,000. Under the guilty plea last November, Pase admitted that she arranged for herself, commissioners, commission staff and others to receive federal grant funds for their personal benefit.

In addition Pase, commissioners and commission staff used federal grants to pay for retreats at neighboring Samoa when such expenses were not authorized. She is also accused of enriching herself and other relatives by using grant funds.

The Probation Office has calculated an advisory guideline range of 24 to 30 months in jail for sentencing, but Pase’s attorney Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson asked the court to consider a sentence below federal sentencing guidelines, saying that Pase takes responsibility for “her wrongdoing and is sincerely remorseful for her conduct”.

“Ms. Pase has no criminal history, immediately accepted responsibility for what she had done at the time she was initially questioned and subsequently, agreed to assist the government in its investigation of fraud in American Samoa, and has been in complete compliance with her release conditions,” argued Peterson in the defense’s sentencing memorandum filed last week.

However, prosecutors in their sentencing memorandum recommended the defendant be given a sentence of 27 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $325,408 in restitution, saying that Pase “perpetrated a significant theft over the course of several years whereby she, her relatives, and others stole more than $325,000 in federal grant funds” from the commission, a now-defunct agency of the American Samoa Government.

Additionally, Pase abused her position of public trust and such a sentence “would surely deter other public officials in American Samoa who may be tempted to abuse their positions of public trust for private gain.”

More details in tomorrow’s edition of Samoa News