Update: And yet again….5 TCF prisoners escape —and recaptured
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — All five inmates accused of escaping from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) on Saturday, Oct. 19th, are now facing charges and held on a ‘no bail’ status.
The group made their initial appearance before District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea last Friday. The five men are: Elliott Siaumau Jr and his brother, Thomas Siaumau III; Gabriel Tinai; Falaniko Fetoai, and Ropati Lepou, also known as Vatoi Ching Sam Jr.
Each man is charged with one count of escape from confinement, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Preliminary hearing (PX) for Tinai is Nov. 8th, while his 4 co-defendants are scheduled for a PX on Nov. 4th.
According to the government, this is the largest group of inmates to have escaped — at the same time — in the history of the TCF.
PRESS RELEASE FROM DPS
In a press release issued last week, Commissioner of Public Safety Le’i Sonny Thompson said the Department of Public Safety is “actively investigating a breach of security at the Territorial Correctional Facility that led to the escape of inmate(s) from their incarceration cell(s) and have since been recaptured and returned to our custody.”
Le’i said that in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, new criminal charges have been filed for prosecution “while we expand the scope of our internal inquiry to identify those who may have aided, including agency personnel who facilitated or blatantly ignored security protocol, to be disciplined and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the Commissioner, TCF personnel who may have contributed to this breach of security have been placed on 30-day annual leave pending the conclusion of the internal inquiry and criminal investigation.
At the same time. DPS has implemented corrective action measures by designating the Deputy Commissioner, Chief of Police, and Warden to oversee each shift and personally conduct full accounting of all inmates at the Territorial Correctional Facility and Juvenile Detention Center until further notice.
Le’i said he is in constant communication with leadership on these efforts, adding that due to ongoing investigations, it is a standing policy that any and all information concerning this subject will be communicated from his office.
Elliott Jr has 4 pending criminal cases under his name in High Court. Samoa News understands that a global plea agreement between Elliott and the government was read aloud in court during a closed door hearing at the beginning of this month.
The agreement has been taken under advisement and Elliot Jr is to appear in High Court next month to hear the court’s decision.
His brother Thomas is serving a 30-year sentence for shooting at a moving police unit three years ago. Thomas also has a pending case in High Court on the allegation that he escaped from the TCF in July of this year.
Fetoai is serving a 10-year sentence for a second degree assault conviction — he used his vehicle to cause serious injuries to two people.
Tinai is serving a 10-year sentence for 4 separate burglary cases in 2014.
Lepou is serving a 20-year sentence for escaping from the TCF in January 2010 and assaulting an ANZ security guard. In the beginning of this year, he was sentenced to 5 years — a straight sentence — after being convicted of escape from confinement in 2018. The straight sentence runs consecutive to his sentence from the 2010 incident.