AMERICAN SAMOA COURT REPORT
DHSS CASE: VINCENT TOEAVA
District Court Judge Fiti Sunia has bound over to the High Court the case against one of the defendants in the Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) alleged food stamp fraud case, after the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing (PX) this week.
Vincent Toeava, who is still in custody unable to post his $450,000 bond, appeared in District Court on Wednesday afternoon for his PX, and private attorney David Vargas represents Toeava, while Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris appeared on behalf of the government.
When Toeava’s case was called, his attorney informed the court that his client wished to waive his right to a PX, and wanted his case bound over to the High Court for further proceedings.
Toeava, who is facing 19 criminal counts, is scheduled to appear in High Court this morning at 9 a.m. for arraignment before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.
The alleged fraud at the DHSS was discovered during a review of why funds for the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP) for the first quarter of FY 2018 quickly ran out.
According to court affidavit ANZ bank redeemed $667,555 more for that period that the amount of food coupons ASNAP issued.
A subsequent review by the DHSS and ASNAP management team discovered a high amount of counterfeit ASNAP food coupons redeemed by three ASNAP vendors during that period, according to court documents.
The other two co-defendants in the case are Jane Vasa and Liren Zhang a.k.a Kevin.
Defendant Vasa is released on her own recognizance to await her sentencing, after she pled guilty to misdemeanor stealing.
Defendant Zhang, the owner of two of the ASNAP vendors, is still in custody unable to post his $450,000 bond.
The owner of the third ASNAP vendor to date has not been charged.
A man accused of possession of illegal drugs as well as possession of an unregistered gun — a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunitions appeared in District Court this week, where Judge Fiti Sunia has set a $40,000 surety bond for his release.
Tasi Tupuola is charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; and unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to distribute — both felonies. He is also charged with two misdemeanor counts of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
Charges against the defendant stem from a traffic stop during the early morning hours of Feb. 20, when police officers allegedly confiscated from the defendant’s vehicle a weapon, narcotics, a firearm and ammunition. According to court documents, the defendant’s car was allegedly traveling at an unknown high rate of speed and was the reason why police stopped the vehicle.
Following the traffic stop, police escorted the defendant along with his vehicle to the Tafuna police substation, where one of the officers inspected the rear of the vehicle and allegedly saw the barrel of what appeared to be a rifle.
According to police documents, they searched the vehicle and found a 12-gauge shotgun. Also found inside the vehicle was a backpack that police searched and found baggies containing a crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine and a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.
The defendant is still in custody unable to post bond. His PX hearing is set for next week.