Case against former Retirement Fund head dismissed without prejudice
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government’s case against the former executive director of the American Samoa Government Employees' Retirement Fund, Luatua Filisouaiga Ta’afua was dismissed without prejudice in High Court last week, after Judge Elvis P. Patea granted a motion filed by prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert Morrison to dismiss the case, almost 3 years after it was filed.
The dismissal was based on a response motion filed last Wednesday by the defense team, asking that the court deny the government’s motion to continue the case, which was set for trial this morning.
(The motion to continue was denied by Patea, who said trial will proceed as scheduled).
But before the close of business last Wednesday, Morrison filed another motion, asking the court to dismiss the government’s case.
The government’s motion was heard last Thursday morning.
Morrison appeared on behalf of the government, while Luatua was represented by Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde and co-counsel, David Vargas.
When the case was called, Morrison verbally asked the court to dismiss the case without prejudice against Luatua. No further explanation was offered. The defense attorneys did not voice any opposition.
Patea then dismissed the case, without prejudice.
Morrison told Samoa News that he filed the motion based on the health condition of the government's primary witness, who is scheduled to depart the territory this week for medical treatment in Hawaii.
Tauiliili-Langkilde said she appreciates that the case has been dismissed.
“On behalf of myself and co-counsel Vargas, we are glad that the government decided to dismiss its case against our client. Luatua has maintained his innocence since the outset of this case. It’s been 3 years since the case was filed, so we are just glad for the present decision to dismiss, so Luatua can get on with his life,” Tauiliili-Langkilde told Samoa News.
(It should be noted that a ‘case dismissed without prejudice’ can be refiled at a later date by the government. It is unknown at this time if it will.)
Aside from the DPS investigation, a forensic auditor from Utah carried out a separate probe and an audit report found evidence that Luatua allegedly misappropriated about $112,000 of the Fund's money for his personal use. Luatua was placed on leave with pay for several months when the case surfaced in the beginning of 2015 and was later terminated in Jan. 2016.
The late Fanene Morris Scanlan, who was the Fund's board chairman when Luatua was executive director, initiated the probe to look at claims that Luatua approved travel and per diem payments for himself and other members of the staff, and issued checks to a janitorial company that he was affiliated with.