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Former OMV employee originally charged with forgery enters into plea agreement

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A former employee of the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV), a division of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), who is accused of providing forged commercial driver’s permits to several local drivers has entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Matthew John Tafua, who is released on a $10,000 surety bond, appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia yesterday morning for a Change of Plea.

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill is representing the defendant.

Tafua, 23, was initially charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of acceding to corrupting, both felonies. However, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Tafua pled guilty to acceding to corruption, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a $5,000 fine, or both.

Tafua admits that on July 18, 2018, he knowingly solicited a benefit in form of US currency in exchange for issuing a fake driver’s license to Gasolo Gasolo without legal authorization.

The case came to light when an aiga bus was pulled over for an expired registration during a traffic stop in Nuuuli on Sept. 15, 2018. The driver of the aiga bus was later identified as Gasolo Gasolo.

At the time, the authenticity of Gasolo's commercial driver's permit was questioned, as it was handwritten and was not properly signed by the OMV manager. When questioned by police, Gasolo admitted that it was a forged commercial driver’s permit that was fixed and given to him by OMV employee, Tafua.

According to Gasolo, on July 17, 2018, he went to the Tafuna Substation to meet with a DPS officer to check the test scores for his commercial driver’s license test. He said he was informed that he didn’t pass and his name was being submitted for the next class.

Gasolo told investigators that on the same day, he met Tafua outside of the Tafuna Substation and shared his story with him. Gasolo claims that Tafua immediately offered to help, but it would cost him $60.

Gasolo said the very next day, July 18, 2018, he gave Tafua $60 and in return, Tafua handed him a yellow commercial driver’s permit.