One of the three defendants in the alleged fraud case at the Department of Human & Human Social Services (DHSS) is out on a $10,000 surety bond. Jane Vasa was not in custody when she appeared in District Court for her preliminary hearing (PX) last Friday morning. She was accompanied by family members and close friends.
When asked about the status of the defendant’s case, her attorney, Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson told the court that his client wanted to exercise her constitutional rights to a PX hearing. Prosecutor Robert Morris did not object to the defense’s request.
Sunia then scheduled Vasa’s PX for this morning at 10:30 a.m. He also reminded the defendant to comply with all the conditions of her release on bond, especially that of no contact with government’s witness. Vasa is facing one count of criminal fraud, a class C felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 7 years, and/ or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Her two co-defendants, Vincent Toeava and Liren Zhang a.k.a Kevin are still in custody, unable to post bond of $450,000 each.
Toeava who is facing 19 criminal counts, is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Feb 7, at 10:30 a.m. for his next hearing.
Kevin, who is facing 17 criminal counts, is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, Feb. 9, at 10:30 a.m. for his next hearing.
The alleged fraud case was discovered during a review of why funds for the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP) for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018 quickly ran out. According to court affidavits ANZ bank redeemed $667,555 more for that period than the amount of food coupons that ASNAP issued.
Court documents stated that a subsequent review by the DHSS and ASNAP management team discovered a high amount of counterfeit ASNAP food coupons were redeemed by three ASNAP vendors during that period. The three named vendors are JFL Malae Store and Fast By Food Mart, both owned by Kevin and the third vendor is Harbor View Mart, whose owner has not been formally charged in the case.
Michael Agasiva Sr was ordered by Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea to be released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) last Friday, after he served more than what the court sentenced him to serve.
Agasiva Sr was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months, and because he had already served close to 13 months in jail, Patea ordered Agasiva Sr to be released forthwith when his sentence was read out in open court.
The 62-year-old registered matai from Amaluia was initially charged with three criminal counts, including sexual abuse in the first degree, a class D felony; and two misdemeanor charges, trespass and assault in the third degree.
Under a plea bargain with the government, Agasiva pleaded guilty to the amended count one; sexual abuse in the second degree, a class B misdemeanor together with counts 2 and 3 as charged.
Before Patea delivered his decision, prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly asked the court to delay Mr. Agasiva’s proceedings, to wait the arrival of the victim who was on her way to the court and wanted to give a statement to the court.
When asked to explain what the victim wanted to share with the court, Pengelly stated that the victim wished to testify to the court about the impact of the defendant’s action on her, and the defendant’s reputation in the village.
Patea said that given the maximum sentence involved in this case and given the facts that the court can only impose those maximum terms of imprisonment, it would not make any difference as far as what the victim and the government were asking the court to do.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Patea then denied the government’s request to delay the hearing and proceed with sentencing.
In count one, sexual abuse in the second degree, Agasiva was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 6 months; in count 2, trespass, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 6 months, and in count 3, assault in the third degree, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 15 days, and according to Patea, those are the maximum terms allowable by law for these offenses.
Count 1 and 3 will run concurrently with count 2 running consecutively.
The court stressed to Agasiva that failure to register by Friday this week as a sex offender would expose him to prosecution and if convicted, he would be subject to a class D felony, a lot more serious than the misdemeanor for which he was convicted.
“The court also strongly advises you that if you have an alternative home, don’t live close to the victim in this case,” Patea said, before ordering the government’s attorney to “file the appropriate charges” if there are any violations in the future.
District Court Judge Fiti Sunia sentenced Peni Sauvao to serve 10 days behind bars last Friday, after he was convicted for public peace disturbance, a class B misdemeanor while he was on probation.
“This is how things work out in this courtroom, once you violate a condition of your probation, we’re no longer talking about counseling, we’re talking about jail terms, and that’s what you get for disobeying the court order.
“So, if you want to try the court again, go ahead because your next conviction will be higher than this one,” said Sunia to Sauvao during his sentencing last week.
Sauvao was on probation for 6 months after he was convicted of public peace disturbance, a class B misdemeanor last year. One of the many conditions of his probation was to keep the peace with his girlfriend and never break any laws.
Before the end of last year, police re-arrested the defendant for another public peace disturbance charge for which he was convicted by the court last Friday, the same date he was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail as a condition of violating his 12-month probation.
Sauvao will have to spend 5 weekends at TCF in order to serve his 10 days detention.
He was ordered to report to TCF on Friday at 6 p.m. to be released on Sunday 6 p.m. starting from last weekend, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, until the first weekend of next month, Mar. 2- 3, 2018.