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Feds want restitution, 27 months sentence for Pase

U.S. prosecutors have recommended that Mine S. Pase be given a sentence of 27 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $325,408 in restitution when she is sentenced tomorrow at the federal court in Washington D.C.

Prosecution’s recommendation was made in its sentencing memorandum filed late last week with the federal court, 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 American Samoa Special Services Commission (ASSSC), a now-defunct agency of the American Samoa Government.”

“Ms Pase’s criminal activities resulted in the loss of not only hundreds of thousands of U.S. taxpayer dollars but also several important community-based programs intended to benefit American Samoans, including youth literacy programs, youth computer training, environmental conservation activities, and family counseling services,” said prosecutors.

Pase, 63, pled guilty last November to one count of  conspiracy to steal more than $325,000 in AmeriCorps grant funds, which were provided to ASSSC.

Pase’s attorney Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson had asked the court for a sentence below the sentencing guidelines. The Probation Office has calculated an advisory guideline range of 24 to 30 months in jail for sentencing, but defense wanted something lower.

Additionally, the government is seeking restitution in this case and Ms Pase wants to provide it to the best of her ability, the defense said.

In its sentencing memo, prosecutors provided background information pertaining to dates and amounts of federal funds stolen by Pase. Overall, prosecutors said Pase and her relatives personally received at least $123,236 of the $325,408 in stolen federal funds.

They also say that the $123,236 represents the amount of unlawful payments that Pase and her relatives received in the form of individual business travel stipends, excessive rent payments, and bogus car lease payments. It does not include any funds or benefits that Pase and her relatives received as a result of the unlawful Apia, Samoa trips and meal purchases.

Prosecutors agreed with the sentencing range recommended by the Probation Office, saying that Pase held a “position of public trust”, in which she was the executive director. “Her position [of] Executive Director made it easy for her to sign and approve unlawful checks to herself and others and significantly facilitated her concealment of the crime,” said prosecutors, who pointed out that the defendant “continued to use her position to conceal her crime” up until the time the theft was discovered by a federal audit.

Because the defendant abused her position of public trust, prosecutors argued that the applicable Sentencing Guidelines Range should be 24 to 30 months imprisonment, adding that Pase stole U.S. taxpayer dollars to benefit herself, her relatives, and ASSSC employees.

“When Ms Pase enriched herself and her relatives, she stole much needed funding for youth literacy and computer training, environmental conservation activities, and family counseling — programs that were intended to enrich the lives of American Samoans who are less fortunate than her,” said prosecutors.

“In support of her below Guideline request, Ms Pase cites her reputation in the community and her supposedly substantial generosity towards others,” said prosecutors. “Given Ms Pase’s indigent circumstances, as a result of which she is being represented by the Office of the Federal Public Defender and reimbursed by the U.S. Marshal’s Office for her travel expenses, it is doubtful she could have been so generous without the benefit of the money she had stolen from U.S. taxpayers.”

“The Government respectfully submits that Ms Pase’s standing in her community — more specifically, her abuse of an important position of public trust — is exactly the reason for the Court to sentence her within the applicable Sentencing Guidelines Range,” said prosecutors.

“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,” the prosecution points out.

 “The need for deterrence is particularly crucial in a public corruption case involving an official from American Samoa, which sits in the South Pacific Ocean more than 7,000 miles away from Washington, D.C. and approximately 2,500 miles away from the nearest Federal Courthouse in Honolulu, Hawaii.”