Former Attorney General’s office employee jailed
The High Court has jailed a former employee of the Attorney General’s office, Tiresa Su’a, convicted of misappropriating more than $77,000 in government funds in connection with the Certificate of Identity (CI) Scam.
Su’a pled guilty to embezzlement and four counts of conspiracy to commit felony stealing.
It’s alleged the defendant, who was responsible for collecting CI fees from the public, did not turn in all the money but used part of those fees for her family obligations. This came to light when the Department of Treasury conducted an audit of the AG’s office and it appeared there was money unaccounted for, which led to the investigation.
The convicted mother is to serve 15 months at the Tafuna Correctional Facility. Sentencing was handed down by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr last Friday. Su’a rendered an apology to the people American Samoan, the government, her family, husband and children and also to the court. She expressed remorse and assured that a huge lesson has been learned from her previous mistakes.
Su’a said there were attempts made to secure a part of the restitution she was required to have before sentencing, however efforts were unsuccessful, and even her children living abroad stepped in to assist her.
“I don’t have a job but I tried and I’m still trying”, she said. She acknowledged how her family has stepped in to help her in many ways, as well as the church members and her minister. “I apologize for any wrong doing I committed, whatever I did, I will serve whatever my sentencing is with humility and compassion” she stated.
Public Defender Ruth Risch-Fuatagavi, pleaded with the court to place Su’a on a probated sentence, and if there is a jail term — to stay the time in jail, while the defendant finds a job to pay restitution. The defense lawyer noted that her client accepted responsibility for her actions. “The delay in this matter was because of legal issues, not because my client was unwilling to cooperate, “said Fuatagavi.
The Public Defender said clearly from the investigation report, her client’s former supervisor was involved.
“This matter is similar to other cases where funds are misappropriated, especially with a woman who has family and church obligations and other obligations which lead these women to misappropriate funds,” adding, “This does not excuse what my client did.”
The defense lawyer noted that she’s aware the government has been hurt financially by this situation.
“Hopefully, procedures and supervisors have been changed”, said Fuatagavi. She added her client has $1,200 as a partial payment for restitution.
Former Independent Prosecutor Fa’amomoi Masaniai told the court he’s bound with the plea agreement recommendations to place the defendant on probation, have her serve an incarceration period of 28 months, pay a fine of $1,000 and pay restitution of $77,365.00
Richmond noted what the defendant did was out of character.
“The defendant had more than one job which involved money, however this is the first time she gave into temptation and misappropriated funds under her care”, said the Associate Justice.
Su’a was sentenced to five years in jail for all five counts she pled guilty to, however this is to run concurrently as she has been placed on probation for five years.
As a condition of probation, the defendant must be jailed for 15 months due to the seriousness of the matter said the judge.
If the defendant pays $5,000 of the $77,365 restitution, a month will be deducted, leaving a 14-month jail term. The defendant was ordered not to leave or attempt to leave the territory without required notice for the court, to be a law abiding citizen and pay a fine of $1,000.
Su’a’s status hearing is scheduled for May 10, 2012, and the status of the restitution will be heard at that time.
Su’a was implicated with two others in the case involving the misappropriation of government funds in connection with a Certificate of Identity (CI) Scam. Her case was the first that was given to the Independent Prosecutor. The other two cases are still pending in court, and are also being prosecuted by IP.