Three former O&O Enterprises employees sentenced to 20 months for stealing
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — All three former employees of O&O Enterprises convicted of stealing goods from the company in a scam that cost the business over $19,000 were each sentenced to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Siueli Blake, Kalala Leilua, and Arona Ma’a appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia yesterday morning for sentencing. All three, who have been in custody since their arrest, were represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while Assistant Attorney Doug Lowe prosecuted.
Leilua’s bail was $20,000; Ma’a’s bail was $5,000; while Blake was held on a ‘no bail’ status due to her illegal immigration status.
Each was charged with 9 counts of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to seven years, 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 such fine and imprisonment.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last month, each defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of conspiracy to commit stealing, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years behind bars, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
With their pleas, the trio admits that between July 5th and Aug. 28, 2018, they engaged in a scam that cost O&O Enterprises in Nuuuli over $19,000. According to terms of the plea agreement, the owner of O&O Enterprises flagged down a police unit on Nov. 28th, asking to investigate some of his employees, suspected of stealing wholesale items and selling them to retail stores.
Ko, the company owner, told police that the inventory didn't match the items that were in the warehouse and the containers. He first questioned the supervisor, Leilua, who immediately apologized and confessed, saying she had been stealing from the company and selling the items to Lucky Seven Store in Nuuuli, for money.
Leilua told Ko that she shared the money with other co-workers, and went on to name everyone involved. Ko called them in one by one for questioning. “Everyone got involved because they were taking orders from warehouse manager, Siueli Blake, and Leilua,” said Ko.
When given the chance to speak, each defendant apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to be with their families and children. Leilua, the former warehouse manager, apologized to her former employer and said she made a terrible mistake. Blake and Ma’a shared the same thoughts.
Ma’a asked the court to allow him the golden opportunity to return home to feed his kids. “Every night, I can’t sleep while in jail,” Ma’a said with tears in his eyes. “I think of my children and what they’re eating at home. I was the only one providing food on the table for my children. Now, I’m living in jail because of the choice I made.”
McNeill asked the court for probated sentences for all three of his clients, saying they are truly remorseful and they take full responsibility. He also asked not to order any period of detention for the trio, but consider the time they spent in pretrial confinement as their sentence.
With respect to Blake’s immigration status, McNeill presented to the court a copy of a form from Immigration, confirming that Blake is now applying for the Amnesty Program so she can renew her immigration status. He said Blake has already paid in full, her application fee for the Amnesty Program, and the only thing left for her to do is take her photo for a new immigration ID.
Sunia was not satisfied with the explanation. He said that if taking a picture for a new immigration ID is the only thing left for Blake, the court wants to see a written decision from the Immigration Board confirming that Blake is eligible for the Amnesty Program. There was no response from the defense attorney.
Prosecutor Lowe echoed McNeill’s submission, saying all three defendants are suitable candidates for probation.
In delivering his decision, Sunia said he and his Associate Judges did not take this matter lightly, as this has become a common offense in the territory - people stealing from their employers. “This is a very severe offense,” Sunia said, adding that the victim, who is also the business owner, put his trust in the three defendants to manage and control his goods and money; and they violated that trust. “The impact of your actions will lie on the consumers,” Sunia said. “To make it simple, you took money away from the economy and you also took money away from us.”
Each defendant was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and they are placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. Each will serve 20 months detention at the TCF, credited for time served, which is over 12 months. They are also ordered to each pay a $1,500 fine.