Jail time requested for Samoan man — described as the “leader” in Alaska mail theft case
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Federal prosecutors are asking for jail time for a Samoan man, described as the “leader” in a mail theft case, which saw over $100,000 worth of products besides Apple computers stolen. The items were destined for schools in remote villages in Alaska.
This is according to the US Justice Department’s sentencing statement for defendant, Congress Lepou, filed with the federal court in Anchorage, Alaska, which is hearing the case against 29-year old Lepou, and co-defendants Breadoflife ‘Presley’ Faiupu, 36; Paulo Maae, 24; Hubert Barte, 37; Harold Velicaria, 35; and Rogelio ‘Roger’ Daquis, 49.
Lepou — charged with 16 counts under a federal indictment — and Faiupu — who was sentenced in February to community service — were supervisors for the rest of the defendants, at RAVN Alaska, a regional airline contracted by the US Postal Service to deliver mail to remote community villages in Alaska.
In the government’s sentencing statement, federal prosecutor Andrea T. Steward contends that Lepou “was the leader of the entire conspiracy” and that Lepou and Faiupu violated this trust and abused their positions as supervisors at RAVN Air to steal the computers from the mail.
“Even worse, they recruited those that they supervised to help them find buyers for the stolen computers, sharing the proceeds of selling the stolen computers and thereby ensuring their silence,” Steward argued.
“Lepou together with Faiupu, made criminals out of the people they were tasked with supervising,” she added and explained that due to the lack of tracking of mail by contract carriers such as RAVN, these crimes were difficult to detect.
When just a smattering of computers went missing over time, Apple computer replaced them and absorbed the loss, she explained.
“It was not until the defendants in this case got greedy and took a dozen or so computers at once that an investigation was started,” she said, adding that through detailed investigative work by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, approximately 60 missing computers were determined to have been stolen by the defendants in this case.
“Lepou also stole an additional $100,000 in phones and tobacco products from the mail, separate from the others involved in the conspiracy,” said Steward, who notes that the maximum sentence that may be imposed on the defendant is 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 mandatory special assessment for each count.
On the issue of restitution, prosecutors said Lepou, is jointly and severally liable with his co-defendants to pay $90,000 in restitution as set out in the pre-sentence report.
Additionally, Lepou is individually responsible for paying $109,143 in restitution to four companies, which sent products to remote villages but were stolen by the defendant.
“Because Lepou was the leader of the entire group and because he is responsible for an additional $100,000 in theft, a sentence of 12 months and 1 day is appropriate,” said the prosecutor in the government’s sentencing recommendation, which also includes imposition of restitution as cited above.
“The defendant was motivated by greed,” the government said.
Steward points out that Lepou has strong family ties both in his extended family and with his own wife and at least one of his two five-year-old children. He attends church. He does not have a substance abuse issue.
“And yet he still chose to line his own pockets without concern for the crimes he was committing,” she said. “The defendant knew better and still chose to break the law and he recruited others to join him.”
And because “these crimes are difficult to detect,” she added, this necessitates “a sentence that will promote respect for the law and deter others that may be tempted to violate the trust of the U.S. Postal Service.”
Lepou was initially scheduled for sentencing early last week, but court records show that it has been continued to May 2nd, after the defense requested that additional time is needed to review the transcript of sentencing for co-defendant, Faiupu, from February.
For sentencing, the court has allowed four “victims” to testify via telephone, according to court filings, which only provides initials of the victims.