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Mine Sunia Pase pleads guilty in fed court to stealing

Mrs. Mine Sunia Pase, younger sister of former Congressman Fofo Sunia, the late Governor Tauese P. Sunia and the current Lt. Governor Faoa Aitofele Sunia, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court, to conspiracy to steal more than $325,000 of AmeriCorps grant funds.62-year old Pase pled guilty to one-count of criminal information before U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton at the federal court in Washington, D.C.The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on whether the federal government has an ongoing investigation into the case against Mine S. Pase, the former executive director of the American Samoa Special Services Commission (ASSSC) which was administered under the Governor's Office, . Pase, who served as ASSSC executive director from March 2001 to October 2010, was released on her own recognizance and allowed to return to American Samoa, said Justice Department spokesperson Laura Sweeney responding to Samoa News questions.Conditions of her release include weekly contact via e-mail with the federal pre trial service office in Washington, and the surrender of her passport to the FBI office in Pago Pago upon her return to the territory. She will get her passport back in order to travel to Washington D.C. for sentencing, according to court documents.Sweeney declined to comment when asked, if the investigation for this case is ongoing and if the department is looking at arresting any other person involved in this case.Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Pase's Washington based assistant federal public defender, Michelle M. Peterson said yesterday, \I will have no official comment but I can tell you she was not held and will return to the island pending sentencing.\The charge against Pase and the guilty plea comes on the heels of a federal audit report issued in late January of this year by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)' Office of Inspector General, who found \serious problems in many aspects\ with respect to grants awarded to ASSSC and cited numerous problems and questionable costs, charged to grants provided to ASSSC.Under the guilty plea, Pase admitted that she arranged for herself, commissioners, commission staff and others to receive federal grant funds for their personal benefit, said prosecutors.\These audit findings indicate some of the most serious misuse of Federal funds my office has seen in recent years