Western Union defendant pleads

COURT REPORT
ausage@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the three former employees of Western Union accused of stealing thousands of dollars from their former employer told the court that the accusation against her is true.

Judy Leilua Tautalaga, a 41-year-old mother was initially charged with two counts of embezzlement and two counts of stealing — all class C felonies, punishable by an imprisonment term of not more than 7 years, and a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

After initially pleading guilty, under a plea deal she entered with the government that was accepted by the court last week, Tautalaga changed her plea to the charge of embezzlement.

Upon her plea of guilt, Tautalaga told the court that on May 31, 2016 while working as an employee of the Western Union in American Samoa, she embezzled the amount of $7,000 in two separate transactions, and stole the total of $14,000 from company.

Tautalaga further admits that she stole $14,000 by taking money from customers who came to the office for the purpose of sending their money to their families outside of American Samoa.

Charges against Tautalaga and two other co-defefendants — all female — came about after the Western Union Group Risk and Compliance Manager travelled from New Zealand to investigate a complaint filed by a customer involving US $7,000, and later found out that the money was stolen by the defendant.

Tautalaga confessed to her supervisor that she stole and used the $7,000 for her sister’s funeral. While reviewing the complaint, it was revealed that two other employees also stole money from the company. The matter was then referred to police for a criminal investigation.

The victim, an Asian customer, told police he went to the Western Union office in Nuuuli to make two separate transactions, each $7,000 to be sent to a friend in China. One transaction went through but the other Tautalaga put on hold and told him the money would be available in 30 days.

Tautalaga is still in custody unable to post a $30,000 surety bond and awaits sentencing, which is now scheduled for May 14.

MELCHOR ALAMIS

A 48- year-old Filipino national who was accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl has entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Melchor Alamis, who told the court that he came here to work as a mechanic was initially charged with rape, sodomy and three counts of first-degree sexual abuse. However under a plea agreement with the government that was accepted by the court, he pled guilty to first-degree sexual abuse.

Upon his guilty plea, Alamis admitted that on the night of June 30, 2017, he touched the breast of a 15-year-old girl who was his neighbor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying his sexual desire.

The defendant further admitted that on that day, he went inside the house of the girl, entered the living room and found her lying on the couch, where he sexually touched her breast without any legal authority.

Attorneys for both sides agreed that they would recommend a probated sentence to the court without any additional jail term.

Prosecuting the case for the government is Robert Morris while deputy public defender Michael White is representing Alamis, who is still in custody unable to post a $20,000 surety bond, awaiting sentencing on May 10.

TITIFALAULA SIAUMAU

Titifalaula Siaumau through his attorney William Olson is asking the court to set aside his bond forfeiture and allow the court to release the whole $10,000 that was posted as a cash bond for his case.

Siaumau, a 22-year-old customs agent, who was convicted of importing a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana into the territory in March of last year was ordered by the High Court in Feb. of this year to serve an imprisonment term of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility and pay a fine of $5,000.

After his sentence was read out in open court, Chief Justice Michael Kruse said that Siaumau had initially posted a cash bond of $10,000 and failed to show up at an earlier hearing.

After that, the court issued a bench warrant, which resulted in his arrest and it was at that same time his prior attorney moved to withdraw. According to Kruse, the court is mandated to forfeit bond, however the court will entertain any motion within 10 days, and if nothing is filed, the $10,000 cash bond will be forfeited to the government.

During last week’s hearing, Siaumau’s new attorney Olson stated that his client did miss an appearance, which is a violation of his release terms. He also stated that his client admitted that was a mistake.

Olsen then asked the court to set aside the forfeiture and either remand the whole $10,000 or a minimum of $5,000.

DAVID TALITIGA

A man accused of trespassing onto private property while intoxicated was sentenced before the District Court last week.

David Talitiga of Mesepa entered into a plea agreement with the government, pleading guilty to charges of trespassing and disturbing the public peace — both misdemeanors. Talitiga apologized to the court for his wrongdoing and promised the court that he would not break the law in the future.

Before sentencing was handed down, District Court Judge Fiti Sunia told the defendant that he’s a good person, but once he drinks alcohol, he makes mistakes.

Sunia sentenced Talitiga to 45 days per each charge however that was stayed, and the defendant placed on probation for 24 months on conditions that he consumes no alcohol, nor congregates with those who are drinking alcohol. He must also visit the probation office regularly.

Court filings say that on Jan 27, the defendant was arrested at a bus stop in Iliili where he was drinking alcohol, and he appeared before the court on Jan. 29 where he denied the charges. He was released on bail with the condition that he remains a law-abiding citizen. Court filings say that a month later, the defendant was arrested in Fagatogo for trespassing and since then Talitiga has been in jail.

Sunia released the defendant last week, and he was ordered to obey all conditions of his release. He was represented by assistant public defender Ryan Anderson while prosecuting the case was assistant attorney general Bianca Lherisson.

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