Today in the High Court of Samoa, Punaotala (Tara) Sakai and Masetoni Isaako pleaded guilty to $5,230.00 (WST) THEFT AS A SERVANT from my company Gold Tick Services Ltd in October/November 2010.
Sentencing will be in early December before the same Judge (Spicer).
The original charge was for over $WST39,000.00 T.A.A.S., however the Attorney General withdrew all items not actually confessed by the couple to the court, and there will be no further action as a result.
UPDATE, Jan 2012: According to the Investigating Officer, Masetoni Isaako received 9 months jail. Tara Sakai failed to appear and a warrant for her arrest has been issued.
UPDATE, April 2012: According to the Investigating Officer, Punaotala (Tara) Sakai was arrested in early April 2012 on further charges of theft/false pretenses (not against us), and was held in custody until she received 24 months jail at her sentencing on Monday 23 April 2012 according to Justice Slicer’s ruling, “as and from 27 March 2012″.
Samoa Observer (27 April 2012) has a front page story reporting Tara’s attempt to be exported to serve her sentence in New Zealand entitled “Woman begs to be deported” and the sentence in full. It quotes our Victim Impact Statement extensively. Of note also is Justice Slicer’s summary of her criminal record that indicates some serious recidivist criminal activity that commenced in 1997 including:
- Aliases (6)
- Theft (4)
- Document Fraud (55)
- Breach of Supression Orders (2)
- Obtaining Financial Benefit by Deception (9)
- Breach of Conditions of Detention (1)
- Breach of Community Work Orders (1)
- Breach of Bail (3)
UPDATE 21 June 2012!
Punaotala Sakai, (Tara Sakai) and Masetoni Isaako today pleaded guilty to all charges laid against them, being forgery and theft of two cheques totalling $3.429.45 WST from Samoa Commercial Bank. These are not the several cheques that she stole from me, rather from the offices of Life, a Catholic community service organisation that, like us, had helped her in no small way previously.
My involvement in today’s hearing was two-fold:
First, last night I received a phone call from the Police summonsing me to appear in court today. Never mind the papers, summonses now come by cellphone! I had 12 hours to appear or I would risk a fine of $100.00. Thanks guys! Again the Samoan Police show their professionalism by waiting until the night before the hearing to seek the co-operation of all the witnesses [sarcasm] as I know the other witnesses too were subpoenaed to “appear in court the next day” despite the fact that we have all known the hearing date for months.
Secondly, Tara forged my signature on this organisation’s cheques. She cashed one at Pacific Ezy and the other at Eveni Caruthers using my name and goodwill without my knowledge. Both crimes were the same as that which she committed with the cheques that she took from our chequebook, but fortunately for us we had informed the bank and stopped the cheques so didn’t lose out anything. It appears that Life may have though, as Samoa Commercial Bank has apparently told them that they have paid out on and honoured the cheques even with an invalid signature! Someone steals your cheques, signs with a fully invalid signatory and you have to cough up? OMG, don’t you just love a bank that does that?
There were a couple of interesting side plays in Punaotala’s game-at-life. The first is that for the first time in over half a year, she wanted to shake my hand and “catch-up” whereas previously she simply didn’t want to look at me and avoided all eye contact. Funny that! Maybe looking at a couple of years prison has changed things for her – or maybe she thinks that she can begin another con with us! Who knows?
The second thing is that on the Court list the name of her on/off/on again partner Masetoni Isaako was handwritten beside hers. This to me indicates a last minute change by the court administration, and one has to wonder at the reasons for a simultaneous change of plea today from not guilty to guilty. My guess is that Tara originally plead not-guilty in order to buy time to work her feminine charms on Masetoni and that she has managed to draw him into her crimes and “get” him to confess too. Her signature? She cashed the cheques? He’s somehow drawn into the case at the last minute and confesses? I smell a rat, and knowing how badly she wants to bring down or hurt the Su’a family from what they’ve done to her, I would counsel those involved in producing victim impact statements and sentencing of the pair to ask questions about Masetoni’s real involvement. My guess is that it was pretty much nil, or at least minimal other than helping her spend the money!
Oh what wicked lives we lead, when we do at first deceive. (A knowingly modified version of the original ditty).
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These are people whom we helped in no inconsequential ways in late 2010 and in early 2011, and gave many chances to. Basically, we were victims of a series of cons and their individual greed. Our biggest mistake was to trust. As a result of these events we are hopefully wiser, and are starting to view the people around us here in Samoa more and more as the Samoan people themselves do, negatively – rather than optimistically. It’s sad, as I would really like to be able to trust people.
I am cynical of the conduct of the criminals, one a self-confessed career criminal with multiple fraud charges pending (NZ & Samoa) and the other who appears to be “merely a thief”. They failed to appear and had to be arrested, one of them twice, and they confessed to only that which they believed that we had evidence for, and one of them continued to attempt the con literally only weeks before the hearing! None of the equipment has been voluntarily returned and I know that they are fully aware of where the stolen equipment is, in fact I know that they continue to use some of the construction equipment until quite recently, possibly even still currently. To put it politely, their confessions are simply pragmatism and certainly lack any repentance!
Throughout the complaint procedure, the investigation by the police, the Attorney General’s office and the court hearing the distinct impression that I got was that efforts to exercise justice existed to the absolute minimum extent possible. It took over a year for the case to be processed. No effort or interest was shown by anyone involved to recover the gear and there was actual resistance to attempting recovery action. Many who were party to the theft and willing recipients of the stolen gear have also gotten away Scott-free.
What the judge says or does with these people from here matters little to me – from my perspective due process was completed and the Justice System has done its bit.
These criminals are not the first to learn that I never give up when it comes to doing the right thing in regards to justice. I’ve said before that all criminals targeting S.W.A.P. will all be handed over to the Police for appropriate action. These two were not the first, and there will be more as well who have committed crimes against us and have yet to show remorse who will end up facing a judge.
This is not a vendetta thing – it is just doing the right thing. I actually lose control of the matter very early on in the events – as the AG lawyer so eloquently put it to me today (not), my job was fully done when I laid the police complaint. She makes all the decisions once the police give her the file.
It is a challenging business working with the legal system here. I’ve found that seeking to be involved causes offense as you are seem to be pushy and asking to be informed is also problematic. Yet if you don’t do the work yourself and push it along and complain it never gets done. The typical Samoan reaction to this sort of thing here from those in authority is just resignation. They know that causing a scene just backfires on them so they suck it up. I’ve learned that lesson here well, too!
There are two judgement courts for criminals – one on earth and our final judgement. I thank God that there is a second one – a court in which we all face our maker and in which no stone will remain unturned, and the full truth and nothing but the truth will be revealed.
In the meantime, the public should recognise the face of the people who live by standards lesser than most in the Western world consider the norm.