Sentence handed down for former TMO cashiers who stole over $70K
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The two former Tautua Mo Oe (TMO) Inc. cashiers convicted of stealing over $70,000 from the company were sentenced in High Court yesterday morning.
Malia One and Inosiaolouaiga Pauga have spent 9 months in custody since their arrest last year, unable to post bond - $40,000 for One and $35,000 for Pauga.
Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented both defendants.
One and Pauga are each charged with one count of stealing and one count of embezzlement, both class C felonies, punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a $5,000 fine, or — pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last month, One and Mauga both pled guilty to the amended count of conspiracy to commit stealing, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine, or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both.
Both women admit that between Jan. 01 and Sept. 30, 2018, they were involved in a scheme to steal money from TMO. One told the court that she stole $37,431.77 while Pauga admits that she pocketed $33,381.35
When given the chance to address the court, both women apologized to their former employer and begged for forgiveness. One said it was her greed and selfishness that made her do it.
“My words will not change what I did to your company. You gave me the trust and faith to perform my duties faithfully and honestly; however, I failed to do my part and I beg you to please, forgive my actions,” One said.
She asked the court for a second chance, so she can find a job to care for her children and pay restitution.
During her apology, Pauga said it was around September of last year that she made the wrong decision — stealing money from her employer because she was desperate. She asked the court for a second chance, so she can return home and fulfill her duties and obligations as a mother to her 2 young children.
She promised the court that she will change her life and find a job to pay her fine and restitution.
The defense attorney provided to the court supporting letters from churches and family members for both women.
Speaking on behalf of One, McNeill said the Catholic Church has offered her a job if she is released from jail — as a housekeeper.
He said both of his clients have shown true remorse for what they did and they both take full responsibility for their actions. He asked the court to adopt the recommendation in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) and sentence both women to probation without any additional period of detention.
Prosecutor Lowe agreed and said One and Pauga are suitable candidates for probation.
Lowe told the court that there is a need to set up a payment plan so each defendant will know how they are going to pay back what they owe to TMO.
Associate Justice Fiti Sunia said that while restitution is always an issue that comes before the court when the court deals with cases involving people who steal from their former employers, he made it clear that the court is not a “collection agency”.
“Payment plan is also not our job. That is something both of you need to think about it,” Sunia told both parties.
Each defendant was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended, and each woman is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
One and Pauga each have to serve 20 months at TCF, credited the 9 months they spent in pretrial confinement. The court deferred 8 months of the detention period, meaning each woman will have to spend 3 more months in jail.
They are each also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine within the first year of probation. Additionally, One has to pay $37,431.77 restitution, while Pauga’s restitution is $33,831.39.
Sunia told One and Pauga that there are many ways they can get money on this island — aside from getting a job — like planting crops and selling them. “I strongly recommend each of you to find a job to pay your fine and restitution. The court wants you to pay your fine first,” Sunia concluded.
The case arose after TMO's auditor and accounting representative conducted an audit and found several irregular amounts that were inconsistent with transactions made. The report revealed that both women stole money from the cash register in TMO’s wholesale division small amounts, and this continued until they accumulated several thousands of dollars.
According to the government’s case, there is a key on the cash machine labeled “RC”. One would press that key and then claim it was a wrong sale. She would then pocket the money she claimed was from a wrong sale, instead of adding it to the daily cash log.
For Pauga, the auditor’s report revealed that her daily sales report and dates on the invoice number receipts did not match up with the daily logs. Pauga allegedly pocketed cash payments made by customers; and to conceal her embezzlement, she used previous invoice number receipts to deceive her employer.