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Samoan woman in Alaska pleads guilty to filing fraudulent tax claims

An American Samoan woman accused by federal prosecutors of filing false tax claims with the U.S. government, by using tax form information from people residing in American Samoa, has pled guilty at the federal court in Anchorage, Alaska and will be sentenced this Fall.


Pepe Anetipa, 58, was charged under a 28 count indictment handed down last year for making false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims against the government. Federal prosecutors allege that Anetipa filed falsified tax returns claiming total refunds of more than $200,000.


Anetipa, who resides in Kent, Washington was released on a surety bond, and she had originally entered a ‘not guilty’ plea. But a change of plea hearing was rescheduled last Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason.


Federal prosecutor Thomas Bradley told Samoa News on Monday that Anetipa pled guilty during the hearing, “admitting to 28 felony charges of filing false claims for tax refunds with the U.S. government.”


“She admitted that the refunds totaled $208,859, with the understanding that the United States will argue that the total amount was over $2 million,” Bradley said, adding that the defendant will be sentenced Sept. 4 this year.


“The defendant faces five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release after her prison term on each count of conviction,” he said, adding that more details in the case are expected to come out when sentencing memorandums are filed in late August.


Also during the plea hearing, Gleason granted a defense motion directing the U.S. Marshal Service to arrange for the defendant’s air transport and other necessary expenses back to Washington state from Anchorage.


According to the indictment, Anetipa moved from American Samoa to Alaska in July 2011 and by February the following year she had obtained an Alaska business license for Triple-H Tax and Services located in Anchorage, where her business consisted of tax preparation.


Prosecutors says the defendant used information on wage and tax withholding reported to residents of American Samoa on a “Form W-2AS American Samoa Wage and Tax Statement” and transferred the information to a regular “Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement”.


This information was subsequently reported on the federal tax Form 1040 to claim tax refunds, although American Samoa residents living in American Samoa were not required to file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if all of their income was derived from sources in the territory, the indictment states.


The 28 counts against the defendant are for the 28 people from American Samoa for which she prepared and filed false tax returns with the IRS, whose Criminal Division investigated this case.


The indictment only shows the initials of those whose taxes were filed by the defendant with the IRS, and the filing all occurred in 2012. The largest tax refund on the list is for $10,840 going to person(s) with initials “S. & M.S.”