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Mine Pase asks to begin jail term ASAP

Defense attorney for the former executive director of the American Samoa Special Services Commission (ASSSC) has asked the federal court in Washington D.C. to revoke the defendant’s bail and to allow her to start serving the jail term as soon as possible at the federal jail in Honolulu.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson made the request in a two-page motion filed yesterday, a day after the former executive director, Mrs. Mine S. Pase, was sentenced to 14 months in prison for conspiracy to stealing more than $325,000 in AmeriCorps grant funds awarded to ASSSC.

Pase, the younger sister of the territory’s Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia, was also ordered to pay $325,408. She will be placed on supervised release following the jail term.

Peterson’s motion requests U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton to enter an order which will modify Pase’s conditions of release pending designation to permit her to remain in Honolulu.

According to the motion, the court recommended — during sentencing — that Pase be designated at the federal detention center in Honolulu to serve the jail term.

Peterson said that it is Pase’s intention, upon receipt of the sentencing judgement and commitment order, “to request that the Court order her bond conditions revoked to allow her to begin serving her sentence as soon as possible.”

(Walton had signed an order on Wednesday directing the Marshall Service “to arrange for noncustodial transportation for Ms. Pase to return to American Samoa from Washington D.C. on or after June 21, 2012.”)

Peterson said her client is enroute from Washington D.C. to Honolulu and Pase has family in Honolulu, where she can stay pending that order or her designation by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

According to the defense, the Pretrial Services will be provided with the Honolulu address and phone number as well as calling Probation Office every Monday to learn whether her designation has been ordered.

Peterson said granting the motion “will not be any additional burden on the government or the Court system and will save the Marshall Service the expense of transporting her from Honolulu to American Samoa, and will save her family the burden of having to get her a plane ticket to return to Honolulu upon [BOP] designation.”

She also said federal prosecutors do not oppose the defense motion.

The 63-year-old Pase pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy, admitting she arranged for herself, commissioners and others to receive federal grant funds for their own benefit. Peterson asked the court to consider a sentence below the federal guidelines of 24 to 30 months in jail.

The case against Pase arose from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit and investigation of the ASSSC more than a year ago.

Deputy Inspector General Ken Bach, in a statement yesterday, thanked “the auditors and investigators of my office who uncovered this theft of AmeriCorps grant funds” as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors with the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section “for the efforts they made to pursue this case in this distant location.

“Our office is committed to protect... AmeriCorps program dollars from theft and ensure that those dollars are used only for the communities for which they were intended to help,” said Bach.

Since our story went out yesterday on Pase’s sentencing, Samoa News has received inquiries as to the specific programs funded thru ASSSC, which has since closed down.

According to prosecutors, ASSSC established four community-based programs to address certain needs of the American Samoa community:

•            Read To Me Samoa, which provided literacy tutorials to elementary school, middle school and high school students;

•            Log On Samoa, (also known as “Love Thy Neighbor”), which provided computer literacy training to elementary school students;

•            Jungle Busters, which promoted local plant conservation efforts; and

•            HIS Ministries, which provided counseling to families of prison inmates.

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