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Another overstayer in court — another subpoena for Chief Immigration Officer

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Chief Immigration Officer Peseta Dennis Fuimaono Lutu has been summoned to the High Court again — this time, it is before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea to explain how a man who came here as a crew member on a fishing boat remained in the territory for several years during which time he broke the law.

The man, 27-year-old Rusiate Tabete from Fiji was convicted of stealing items from a store in Tafuna last year.

Tabete was initially charged with 3 counts of stealing, and 3 counts of second degree burglary — all class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment terms of up to 7 years, and a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

But under a plea agreement with the government, Tabete agreed to plead guilty to 3 counts of second-degree burglary, and the remaining charges were dismissed.

With his guilty plea, the defendant admits that on Nov. 11, 2017, as well as Dec. 2 and 7, 2017 he unlawfully entered a store in Tafuna and stole merchandise and cash.

Tabete appeared before Judge Patea last Friday for sentencing, however, his sentencing was continued until May 2, because the Immigration Office (IO) refused to provide the Probation Office with information about the defendant.

“It appears that we don’t have a very cooperative Immigration Office in this matter. We need to continue this matter until the court gets all the information about the defendant’s immigration status,” Patea said.

“Who is this sponsor Manuia Fisheries?” Patea asked the Chief Probation Officer, who answered, “I don’t know your honor. I asked the Immigration Office the same question and their response was they don’t know.”

“Alright, Clerk, issue a subpoena and address it to the Chief Immigration Officer. I want him to appear before this court with all the information about this man. His date of entry until the day he was arrested for this case. The court needs to know why he was allowed to walk free in the territory while he was not suppose to,” Patea said.

According to the information provided by the IO to the Probation Office, Tabete entered the territory in 2015 as a crew member of a fishing vessel. He was sponsored by Manuia Fisheries, an enterprise in the territory.

However, the IO did not provide all the information the Probation Office wanted, including the expiration date of Tabete’s stay in American Samoa,  according to the pre sentencing report that is now before the court.

When the Probation Office requested the identity of the sponsor, the IO only provided Manuia Fisheries as the sponsor. When asked who is Manuia Fisheries, the IO’s response was “they don’t know,” according to the pre sentencing report.

“When I asked one of the Immigration officers to provide the expiration date for the defendant’s stay in American Samoa, he told me to go on ‘Google’ to find the information I’m looking for. When I searched the information about the defendant on Google, I found nothing,” according to the report prepared by the Chief Probation Officer.

According to the report provided by the IO to the court, the defendant has no ‘ARN #’ (a number for all the legal aliens who have been given an immigration identification card).

Prosecuting the case is assistant attorney general Christy Dunn, while deputy public defender Michael White is representing the defendant who was remanded to custody unable to post a $10,000 surety bond.


Samoa News archives show this is not the first time the court has issued a subpoena to Peseta to appear before the court on immigration issues.

The court issued subpoenas to the CIO started a few years ago when Chief Justice Michael Kruse wanted to know why Pelenato Maiava, a sex offender, was able to enter the territory on many occasions, despite a ban on his entry. 

The court continued to hear Maiava’s case from Feb. 2015 up until May 2016. The hearings were called and rescheduled after the court was not satisfied with the information that was provided by Immigration. As a result of these hearings, CIO Peseta was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 for contempt of court order in May 11, 2016.

The CIO was again subpoenaed by Kruse back in Nov.2016 after the court wanted to know why Joeita Fa’aaliga, an overstayer entered American Samoa on a 30-day permit back in Sept. 2012.

The first phase for Fa’aaliga’s case is now over, after the court sentenced him in Feb. 2018, but the second phase about “collateral issues” involving the executive’s policy implementation still hasn’t been resolve.

Samoa News understands the CIO has already received his subpoena for the next hearing about this matter.

Associate Judges Satele Lili’o Satele and Su’apaia Pereira accompanied Patea in hearing this case.