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Vasa accepts plea agreement in DHSS food stamp fraud case

[SN file photo]

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia has dismissed one count of criminal fraud against one of the defendants — Jane Vasa — from the Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) food stamp program, after the government was unable to provide sufficient evidence to the court during her preliminary examination (PX) yesterday morning.

A plea agreement that was filed under seal has been presented to the court, where Vasa agreed to plead guilty to stealing, a class A misdemeanor, punishable for a term of imprisonment of up to 1 year, or a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Vasa, who is out on a surety bond of $10,000 appeared in the District Court yesterday morning for her PX hearing. She was accompanied by her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly represented the government on behalf of prosecutor Robert Morris, who was in High Court handling a jury trial that started yesterday morning.

A few family members of the defendant were also present in court during yesterday proceedings.

When Vasa’s case was called, Pengelly informed the court that the government is not prepared to put up any evidence for the probable cause hearing. Sunia acknowledged the government’s move and ordered that the felony charge against the defendant be dismissed.

Sunia also acknowledged that the court had received a “new filing” from the government under seal, which includes the new charge of misdemeanor stealing and also a plea agreement between the government and the defendant.

In the agreement, which was read out in open court by Sunia, it stated that the defendant agreed to plead guilty to the crime of misdemeanor stealing. When asked about her plea, Vasa, who sat next to her attorney replied to the court, “I plead guilty.”

The court also noted that the defendant’s plea of guilty was voluntary after she was advised by her attorney. The court also was satisfied that there was a factual basis to support her plea of guilt.

The court then scheduled Vasa’s sentencing for April 28, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

On the new matter to which she pled guilty, the court did not set up a bond and the government said it was not opposed to an O.R. (own recognizance) release for Vasa.

Sunia then ordered that the defendant be released on her own recognizance.

She was cautioned that she is not to leave or attempt to leave the territory, and she must appear in court whenever her case is called.

The other two defendants in this case, Toeava and Liren Zhang a.k.a Kevin are scheduled to appear in court this week for their PX hearings.

Toeava is facing 19 criminal counts and is scheduled to appear in court this morning at 10:30 a.m. for his PX.

Kevin, who is facing 17 criminal courts, is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 for his PX.

Sunia has set bail at $450,000 each for Toeava and Kevin, and both defendants are currently in custody at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), unable to post bond.