Stoechkict F. Allen corruption case finally settled after nine years
The case of a government employee who was accused of issuing travel documents —Certificates of Identity (C.I.) — 9 years ago in order to receive monetary rewards finally came to a close last Friday at the High Court.
Stoechkict F. Allen, 46, was initially charged with two counts of misuse of official information and public servant acceding to corruption — both class D felonies — punishable by not less than 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of not less than $5,000 or both for each count.
Under a plea agreement accepted by the court, the government agreed to amend count one of mis-information from a class D felony to a class A misdemeanor, a crime punishable by “not more than 1 year imprisonment, or a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.”
Defense attorney Sharron Rancourt asked that the defendant be fined $1,000 without imposing any term of imprisonment. The same was echoed by persecutor, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei, who was appointed by the court to be serve as Independent Prosecutor.
After accepting Allen’s guilty plea, the court immediately moved to render its decision.
Acting Associate Chief Justice Elvis P. Patea ordered Allen to pay a fine of $1,000 within 30 days, without placing him under any terms of probation.
FAKE TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
The case against Allen came to light when a family who was traveling to Samoa in December 2007 encountered problems with their children’s travel documents, and filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office.
The case was transferred to the Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement (OTICIDE), and Special Agent Samuelu Tinai was assigned to investigate.
During the investigation, the defendant was employed by the AG's Office, and according to Uiagalelei, even though several employees of the AG’s Office were accused in this matter when it first came to light, only the defendant was prosecuted.
According to the affidavit in support of the case, Tinai together with his partner, Special Agent Leslie Tua were able to interview the couple - the victims in this case - on January 09, 2008.
The couple told investigators that on or about December 4-5, 2007, they went to the AG's Office to obtain C.I.s for their family as they planned to travel to Samoa for the holidays.
The couple met with the defendant and asked him for five C.I.s for their children to travel to Samoa, but the defendant told them to come to his house in Vaitogi during the evening hours, because he was very busy.
The couple thought that Allen's suggestion meant that he would offer them some help by cutting down the cost of the C.I. but when they met with him at his home later that evening, he provided them with papers to apply for the C.I.s and also asked them for $50 per C.I. — for a total of $250.
Two days later on December 09, 2007, the couple received a phone called from Allen asking them to check on the full names of their children to complete the forms, and it was at that time Allen informed them to come over to his house in Vaitogi on the following day to pick up five C.I.s for their children, which they did.
On December 24, 2007, the couple with their five children flew to Samoa to visit their family, and that was where the problem occurred when a female Immigration Officer at the Faleolo International Airport was verifying their travel documents and found that 3 of the children's C.I.s had problems.
The Samoa Immigration Officer told the couple that C.I. numbers 72202 and 72201 had been used before by someone else, while C.I number 72199 was expired, and because of that, their three children had to return to American Samoa and could not enter Samoa.
The couple pleaded with the Immigration Officer, who then checked with her supervisors, and after some time, the three children were allowed to enter Samoa, but they had to pay the C.I. fee first — which was US$ 50 each, for a total of US$150.
Upon returning to American Samoa, the couple showed the C.I.s to the Immigration Officer who served them at the Pago Pago International Airport, on January 4, 2008, and told him the story about the problem with the C.I.s Allen had given them, and the officer reportedly told them that “Allen has done this several times”.
It was on that same day the couple went straight to the Passport Office to confront Allen about the matter, but were told that the defendant was out of for lunch. At that time, they explained to a female worker in the office the whole story about the C.I.s that Allen gave them and the problem they faced when they arrived in Samoa.
The female worker then made copies of all the C.I.s the couple had, and told them that she would talk to Allen when he returns.
Court affidavits state that when Allen came back from his lunch break, his co-worker told him about the problem, but he didn’t respond.
When news about the C.I.s reached other staff members, they reacted by starting to look for receipts and money for the C.I.s, inside the office, but nothing was found. They also searched the vault located inside the office of the defendant’s uncle, who was also working for the AG’s Office at the time, but nothing was found.
Court documents state that Allen went to work the following Monday, but did not work on Tuesday. It was on that Tuesday when he was absent from work that the staff conducted another search for the receipts and money for the C.I.s, and this time, when they checked inside the vault in his uncle’s office, they found papers for the C.I.s clipped together with cash.
While the OTICIDE Special Agents continued their investigation, they were able to interview the Passport Office Supervisor at the time, Rowena I’amanu, on Feb. 5, 2008, who told them that on Jan. 8, 2008 when she first heard about the matter, she started searching for receipts and paperwork for the C.I.s, but was unable to find anything.
On Feb. 7, 2008 when Special Agents interviewed the defendant at the AG’s office, Allen told them that he and his supervisor I’amanu are the only people responsible for handling passport applications, and because there is no written policy, procedure or guideline in terms of handling the C.I.s, they can take the applications home, however, they are not allowed to take the C.I. forms home.
The defendant told investigators that he was never told about the couple’s complaint, and he never used any money from C.I.s, but he was the one who advised one of his co-workers via a telephone conversation to look inside the vault for the papers and money. He said that he was trying to help the family.