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Two men charged in a burglary case from last year will be released this week

American Samoa High Court building
Court sentences them to probation, with conditions

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The two men who were convicted of receiving stolen property last year have been given a big break by the court.

Ameperosa Motusaga and Filisi Finau Jr will be released this Friday - credited for time served - based on a ruling handed down in High Court last week. The two have been in custody since their arrest, unable to post their set bond of $15,000 each.

Motusaga was initially charged with one count of receiving stolen property, a class C felony. But under a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to the amended charge of conspiracy to receive stolen property from another person, a class D felony.

Motusaga admits that on July 18, 2018 he agreed to help Finau Jr sell electric tools, fine mats, clothes and 3 pairs of shoes to his uncle in Vaitogi, knowing the items were stolen from the Ottoville/Tafuna home of Vincent Faamanatu.

Motusaga confirmed that the items exceeded $100 in value and he told police that while some of the stolen items were sold at his uncle’s home, others were exchanged for 6 handrolled marijuana cigarettes from a friend in Kokoland.

Motusaga refused to reveal to police the identity of his friend.

Finau Jr was initially charged with second degree burglary, stealing, receiving stolen property, and trespassing. Under a plea bargain with the government, Finau Jr pled guilty to receiving stolen property. The remaining charges were dismissed. With his guilty plea, Finau Jr admits that on July 18, 2018 he took electric tools, fine mats, clothes and 3 pairs of shoes  to a person in Vaitogi, knowing the items were stolen from Faamanatu’s Ottoville home.

When given the chance to address the court, Motusaga apologized and begged for a second chance to go home and take care of his family. He also apologized to his family, village, and church - but did not apologize to the victim. Motusaga said the 16 months he has spent in prison has taught him a lesson, and  he is truly remorseful and wants to offer his life to God and serve his family.

Finau Jr also apologized to the court, his family, and his parents, but not to the victim. He said he was careless and stupid, and he wasted many months of his life in jail. He assured the court that if given a second chance, he will never appear in court again.

Both sides recommended a probated sentence. The prosecutor said that despite being convicted of a felony, both men are suitable candidates for probation.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Elvis P. Patea told the defendants that the court has taken into consideration the fact that they are first time offenders, they fully cooperated with the government during the investigation, and they are both young and truly remorseful.

“Reading from the Pre Sentence Report, we noted that the motivation behind your actions was to sell the stolen items so you can go out and buy a case of beer and illegal drugs for you and your friends,” Patea told the defendants.

The court sentenced Motusaga and Finau Jr to probation for 5 years, with several conditions. Both were ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF; however, they are credited for time served (16 months) and the remaining 4 months are stayed, based on their compliance with probation conditions.

While on probation, the two are to remain law abiding, as well as alcohol and drug free. “This will be your last chance before this court. If you violate any conditions of your probation, the court will revoke your probation and order each of you to serve the remaining balance of your 5-year imprisonment terms,” Patea warned.