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Police arrest man who allegedly stole and forged his uncle's checks

[SN file photo]

A man who is accused of stealing more than $5,000 from his uncle’s bank account by stealing his checks and forging his signature was arrested by police last week.

Paulo Lauti is being charged with 5 counts of forgery, and 5 counts of stealing - all felonies. Each count is punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

It was the victim, Laloulu Tagoilelagi, who reported the case to police on July 11, 2017, after he discovered that a huge amount of money was missing from his Bank of Hawaii account.

According to court documents, $5,100 was missing from the victim’s bank account, and the victim had a hard time trying to figure out how it happened.

It was when Tagoilelagi received his bank statement at the end of the month, that he realized someone had withdrew money from his bank account without his permission.

The victim told investigators that five checks were stolen from his personal check book and all were cashed at Bank of Hawaii - without his consent.

Court documents show that the first check was dated May 23, 2017 in the amount of $1,600. The second check was dated June 1st, for $1,200

A  third check for $600 was dated June 5th, followed by a fourth check, dated June 30th, for $1,300

The last check was dated July 3rd in the amount of $400.

Police reviewed records from the bank pertaining to the transactions, and a bank teller who provided information to investigators said the checks were paid to the order of an individual named Paulo Lauti, the defendant in this case, who is also the victim's nephew.

It was revealed through bank records that the defendant allegedly forged the victim’s signature, and used his American Samoa driver’s license to cash the checks.

Police were also provided with a signed letter that the defendant gave to his uncle, apologizing to him for forging and cashing his checks, with a promise to pay his money back, and begging for his forgiveness.

Lauti made his initial appearance in the District Court last week, but was remanded back to custody, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond.

His next court appearance, a preliminary examination, is set for this week.