Man who failed to pay court ordered fine blames family obligations
Pago Pago, AMERIAN SAMOA — A man who failed to pay a $2,000 fine within the first three years of a 7-year probation sentence was given a warning from the court last week, to decide whether he complies with a court order or his family fa’alavelaves.
Talalelei Ugapo, a 35-year-old bus driver, appeared in court last week for an Order to Show Cause (OSC) hearing, for failure to comply with conditions of his probation, which was handed down by the court in 2012 after he was convicted of felony stealing, a class C felony.
According to a report from the Probation office, Ugapo’s probation will be complete next year; however, he hasn’t paid the full amount of his court ordered fine. Furthermore, Ugapo was only able to pay $272 of a $500 restitution.
Probation has given multiple chances to Ugapo to pay his fine and restitution; however, he continues to make excuses, saying he has a lot of family fa’alavelaves and other obligations he needs to fulfill.
Last month, the Probation Office filed an OSC to the court, and Ugapo was set for a hearing.
He appeared before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for his OSC hearing last week, where he was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.
When asked by the court, Ugapo explained that the reason why he has failed to pay his fine and restitution is because he has a lot of family obligations that he needs to fulfill. He then asked the court to give him time to make payments.
He said he was unemployed for almost a year but he has a new job now, he is a bus driver. He promised to start making his payments once he gets paid.
The court granted Ugapo’s application for another chance; however, the court made it clear to him that if he fails to keep his word, there will be no more chances for him in the future.
The court has continued Ugapo’s OSC hearing for another 90 days, to allow him time to pay his fine and restitution.
Ugapo was initially charged with two counts of stealing and two counts of first degree burglary. But under a plea agreement with the government, Ugapo pled guilty to stealing. He was then ordered to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as a condition of a 7-year probation term.
Furthermore, he was also ordered to pay restitution of $500 and a fine of $2,000 during the first three years of his probation term.
Court filings note that on June 16, 2011 police were contacted for assistance about an alleged burglary. The government claimed that a Chinese man informed police that the screen wire to his house was torn and the window louvers were removed, along with $1,000 cash from under his bed.
Two days after the incident, police questioned a man who told them that he was involved in several burglaries with Ugapo. The man told police that Ugapo broke into the Chinese man’s residence, that he tore the screen wire, removed the louvers, and they both entered the house.
He went on to say that when Ugapo was in the living room, he was handed two bottles of wine and told to wait in the living room while Ugapo entered the bedroom.
According to court filings, the two then left the house and went to Ugapo’s shack where Ugapo gave the witness $60.
The witness told police that he and Ugapo entered the same house a second time, using the same method, and Ugapo opened the front door and handed him two bags of rice, and a package of noodles.