Samoan man sentenced to 5 years probation for stealing mail in Alaska
Anchorage, ALASKA — One of the three Samoan defendants — accused along with three others with stealing more than 300 computers sent by mail and destined for schools in remote villages in Alaska — was sentenced last Friday at the federal court in Anchorage, Alaska.
Breadoflife ‘Presley’ Faiupu, 36 — along with co-defendants Congress Lepou, 29; Paulo Maae, 24; Hubert Barte, 37; Harold Velicaria, 35; and Rogelio ‘Roger’ Daquis,49 — were charged with conspiracy, mail theft, and possession of stolen mail under an indictment handed down in January 2018 by a federal grand jury in Alaska.
According to prosecutors and the indictment, all six defendants are former employees of RAVN Alaska, an air carrier contracted by the US Postal Service to deliver mail to post offices in mostly remote villages through the state.
Faiupu and Lepou were former supervisors for the Alaska regional airline.
According to the indictment, the crimes in which the defendants are accused of, started March 2015 to April 2017 and approximately 343 Apple computers went missing. The computers had an approximate value of $380,000 and most of them were for the schools.
FAIUPU SENTENCING AND FEDERAL CASE
Faiupu was initially charged with four counts under the indictment; but last October he pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy and mail theft under a plea agreement with prosecutors.
He appeared last Friday before US District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason, who sentenced Faiupu to five years probation, with six months of community confinement in a halfway house, according to court records and prosecutors.
Faiupu was also ordered to pay $90,000 in restitution, joint and severally, (meaning two or more persons are fully responsible equally for the liability), with his co-defendants.
During sentencing, Gleason noted that the seriousness of the offense was based on the impact to the children who were waiting for computers to be delivered to rural school districts, but were instead stolen by Faiupu and his co-defendants and sold for a profit, according to a statement by the US Justice Department last Friday.
Defense attorney D. Scott Dattan recommended a sentence of five years probation for his client, whom the defense argued has shown “remorse and shame” for his actions.
“The theft of computers from the mail was completely out of” Faiupu’s character, said Dattan in the defense’s sentencing memo filed with the court. Additionally, Faiupu’s wife — “despite her frustration with him” — has stood by him as the case was pending.
“Presley has been working to help support his family” and he “will work hard to help support his children and make restitution,” Dattan said.
The defense argued that — from a review of discovery — Faiupu “was not the instigator or organizer of these thefts.”
“He did engage in it and withdrew from the conduct before being arrested. Even before the arrest, Presley knew he was wrong and was ashamed of his conduct. He has learned his lesson,” said Dattan, who noted that Faiupu “is a relatively older defendant with an education, a good employment history, and strong family support.
In the federal government’s sentencing memo, Assistant US Attorney, Andrew T. Steward, argued for 12 months imprisonment and restitution, saying it “is a fair and just sentence.”
Steward explained that to reach many villages throughout Alaska, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) must contract with small airlines such as RAVN to deliver the mail. These villages rely on the USPS — via RAVN — for delivery of many important items.
And this includes the Apple computers that were stolen in this case by Faiupu.
According to Steward, the USPS has to rely on the trustworthiness of companies like RAVN and their employees to get the mail where it needs to go, because the USPS does not employ a tracking of items shipped to these areas of Alaska, as there is virtually no competition for delivery to these areas,
However, “Faiupu and Lepou violated this trust and abused their positions as supervisors at RAVN air to steal the computers from the mail,” Steward argued. “Even worse, they recruited those that they supervised to help them find buyers for the stolen computers, sharing the proceeds of selling the stolen computer, and thereby ensuring their silence.
Furthermore, “Faiupu, together with Lepou, made criminals out of the people they were tasked with supervising.”
Due to the lack of mail tracking by contract carriers, Steward said these crimes were difficult to detect. When just a smattering of computers went missing over time, Apple replaced them and absorbed the loss, she said.
“It was not until the defendants in this case got greedy and took a dozen or so computers at once that an investigation was started,” she continued.
Prosecutors said in a statement that during the course of the conspiracy, Faiupu and Lepou stole approximately 60 Apple computers from the mail. The total approximate retail value of stolen Apple computers attributed to Faiupu is $90,000
“The defendant [Faiupu] was motivated by greed,” declared Steward in the USDOJ’s sentencing memo.
“His family came to Alaska as part of a church. He attends church. He does not have a substance abuse issue. And yet he still chose to line his own pockets without concern for the crimes he was committing,” Steward said. “The defendant knew better and still chose to break the law and he recruited others to join him.”
“The character of a person is most clearly on display in the actions they take when they believe no one is watching. Mr. Faiupu’s character is that of a criminal,” Steward continued, adding that “Faiupu’s conduct was significantly more culpable than the people he recruited to help him sell the computers he stole, because he used his influence and position as a supervisor to convince others to join his criminal conspiracy.
She said the federal government notes that “Congress Lepou was a corrupting influence on Mr. Faiupu and that Mr. Lepou is more culpable than Mr. Faiupu. This is true both because of Mr. Lepou’s greater scope of criminal activity and the greater influence he exercised over his co-defendants.”
According to court filings, Lepou will be sentenced next month while the rest of the co-defendants will be sentenced later this year.