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Man convicted of burglary and stealing will remain in jail for 4 more months

Territorial Correctional Facility, TCF

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 33-year-old man convicted of burglarizing a home and taking off with a computer and $420 cash is going to jail.

Matati’a Ulugia who has been in custody since his arrest last September, unable to post bond, appeared in High Court this week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Ulugia was originally charged in two separate cases.

In the first case, he was charged with forgery and stealing, both class C felonies. In the second case, he was charged with second degree burglary and stealing, both class C felonies; along with trespass, a class A misdemeanor.

Under the plea agreement, Ulugia pled guilty to second degree burglary and stealing in the second case. The remaining charges were dismissed.

With his guilty plea, Ulugia admits that on Sept. 28, 2018 he unlawfully entered the home of another person and stole a computer; a bag containing $420 cash that was on the table; and several items valued at more than $100.

Ulugia told police he sold the stolen items for money to buy drugs to feed his addiction.

When given the chance to speak, Ulugia apologized to the victim and asked for forgiveness. He also apologized to the court, the American Samoa Government, and the community for violating the law. He also apologized to his parents, who were in the courtroom.

He asked for a second chance, so he can change his life and prove that he can become a better person. He said the 11 months he spent in prison was helpful in teaching him a good lesson, and it allowed him time to meditate to God and seek His forgiveness.

He promised the court that if he is given a second chance, he will make sure to use it wisely to care for his parents, wife and children, and to find a job to pay his fine and restitution.

McNeill asked for a probated sentence, saying Ulugia is a young father who made a careless mistake. He told the court that he agrees with the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) that his client is a drug addict with a meth problem that needs to be addressed.

Prosecutor Garvey said the defendant is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence. She however reminded the court that part of the plea agreement with the defendant, requires him to pay restitution for the computer and other items he stole from the victim.

For second degree burglary and stealing, Ulugia was sentenced to 7 years in jail for each count. The terms are to run concurrently. Execution of sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation for 7 years, subject to several conditions.

He is to serve 28 months at the TCF, with credit for 11 months of pretrial confinement.

All but 15 months is stayed, meaning Ulugia has to serve 4 more months at the TCF before he is released.

He is also to pay a $2,000 fine and $420 restitution within the first year of probation.