A 37-year-old man has been convicted for one charge of forgery. The decision against Malolo Aumua of Manunu and Lalovaea was delivered by Supreme Court Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa.
Prosecution was Lealofioamoa Mamaia of the Attorney General’s Office while Tosimaea Tupua represented the defendant.
The incident occurred on 5 August 2015. Malolo was accused of giving false information and forging the signature of the Head of L.T.A., in a transfer letter of vehicle ownership.
The Court heard that he took the time to draft the letter, forged the signature and even took it to the Land Transport Authority to have the vehicle registered under his name.
The complainant is a 65-year-old businessman of Salelologa and Vaivase-tai. In reading out her decision, Justice Niava said the charge of forgery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
“The summary of facts prepared by prosecution is disputed by the accused saying that there was no agreement for the accused to pay $6000 as full payment,” she said.
“The accused says the agreement was a complete swap of vehicles. Regardless of whether the agreement was for a swap of vehicles or that a balance of $6000 was to be paid by the accused, the matter before this Court is the criminal offending of forgery as to the other matter there is a different forum to have that dispute sorted.”
Defense Counsel, Tosimaea Tupua sought a discharge without conviction. He also told the Court that the gravity of the offending by Aumua is at the lower end.
But Justice Niava disagreed. She said the defendant’s culpability level and the circumstances in which it was committed to be in the medium range.
“Forgery is always committed with an ulterior motive and therefore, the offence of forgery is always premeditated,” she said. “The actions of the accused to facilitate his offending were deliberate and premeditated. He took the time to draft the letter, forge the signature and even take it to L.T.A. to have the vehicle registered to his name.
“I also do not agree that a conviction against the accused will be out of proportion because it will severely impact upon the accused future employment options.
“I agree with the prosecution that the accused is well educated and should be able to find future employment. This is about the accused, his integrity and morals.
“He does not strike me as naïve, he knew exactly what he was doing and therefore I do not accept that the appropriate sentence is a discharge without conviction.”
Moreover, Justice Niava said the whole transaction between the accused and the complainant was vague and very dicey.
“The vehicle, which is the subject of the forgery, was registered under the name of the complainant’s employee, Puleaga Sili,” she said. “This vehicle has been returned to the complainant but the complainant still has possession of the accused vehicle.
“There are references from the accused’s employer and his church minister who both spoke of his leadership skills and good character.
“The accused has a clean criminal record, pleaded guilty and he owned up to the Police when he was taken in for questioning.
“Having pleaded guilty and owning up to the Police has not only saved the Police time from further investigating the matter, but also the Court’s time.
“I also accept that he regrets what he has done because of the implications this may have on his employment both present and future and in saying all this, I believe he deserves a second chance.
“I have always advocated that imprisonment is not the only way or measure of deterrence, there are other ways to achieve deterrence.
“In the circumstances of the offending, I am satisfied that a custodial sentence as recommended by the prosecution is not appropriate but that a conviction will be entered against the accused.
“The accused is convicted and ordered to come up for sentence within 12 months should he re-offend.
“He is also ordered to pay $300 for prosecution costs to be paid by 4pm.”