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Woman arraigned in High Court accused of embezzling $40,000+ from employer

A former employee of Kooline refrigeration accused of embezzling close to 60 checks with a value close to $40,000 was arraigned in High Court earlier this week. It's alleged this occurred over a period of 16 months, between October 2010 and February 2012.

Lega Oa who worked for Kooline for a couple of years is charged with embezzlement and forgery. The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting this case is Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag.

According to the government’s case, on February 29, 2012 the manager of Kooline filed an official complaint against a former clerk of Kooline.

The complaining witness reported to police that the defendant forged his signature on company checks and used the money for her personal use, or to make payments of the checks she forged. The government alleges that two days prior to filing the complaint, the Kooline manager questioned Oa regarding several missing checks.

The manager told police the basis for his questioning was because the defendant had failed to submit monthly cash flow reports for two months. In addition, a check from their company had been returned by a retail store near Kooline.

According to court filings, the Kooline manager said that when he questioned the defendant she admitted to taking the money. She apologized and asked the manager for forgiveness.

The government claims the Kooline manager forgave the defendant and asked her for the missing checks, but the defendant responded that she got rid of the checks and she was going to leave for Apia that same afternoon. The next day the manager went to the ANZ bank asking for bank statements from January 2012 to February 2012.

Court filings say that in the bank statements the manager found several other missing checks aside from the checks he was initially inquiring about.

It’s alleged the value of these three initial checks, which the manager claims he did not sign, totaled  $3,025.13.

According to the government’s case the lead investigator in this matter also visited the retail store from which the company check was returned.The owner of the retail store told police that almost every day an employee of Kooline Company cashed company checks at the store, and they always checked to see if the signature on the check matched the Manager’s signature (how they did this is not noted in the court filings).

The government claims that during the police investigation, it came to light that it was in the first week of February, the defendant cashed a check at the retail store, and later the Kooline manager told the store that the check was stolen. The owner of the retail store told police there were many other checks from Kooline which the defendant had cashed at the store.

The government further claims the defendant tearfully contacted the Kooline manager at his residence and pleaded with the manager’s wife to drop the case. It's alleged the defendant contacted the manager for a second time, where she admitted that she forged the company’s check as far as back as 2010, and this was not the first time.

The government claims that after the defendant allegedly admitted that she had forged checks dated back to 2010, the Kooline manager reported to police that he and the company accountant discovered 54 additional company checks which he claimed were forged by the defendant, and copies of the checks were presented to police.

Court filings state that checks were dated from February 9, 2011 to January 13, 2012. The manager told police he did not sign or approve any of these checks.

According to the government’s case the checks were drawn on the Kooline company account with ANZ bank. The government alleges the manager and the accountant discovered the defendant had embezzled company funds by writing Kooline company checks without the manager’s approval and forging the manager’s name on checks from October 2010 to February 2012, when the defendant resigned from the company.

According to court filings the total amount of Kooline funds stolen by the defendant is $38,528.04 plus $4,530 in back charges.

The defendant denied the charges against her when she was arraigned in High Court, before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.