A cashier at Frankie’s Supermarket at Salelologa has been jailed for four years after she was convicted of stealing $52,481.40 from her former employer.
Antonina Pamata Paulo, also known as Pamata Paulo Pipi Salu, appeared before Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson for sentencing on Friday.
The defendant faced six criminal charges of theft as a servant.
As the Head Cashier, Antonina was responsible for filling in the Cash Summary for each cashier and would sign it together with the relevant Cashier verifying the accuracy of the count.
The defendant would then compile a Daily Banking Schedule, which would be signed off by the Branch Manager.
According to evidence before the court, cash takings for the day was kept locked in the store vault overnight and banked the next day.
The defendant’s is also responsible to fill in the relevant Bank Deposit Slip, which she would have the Branch Manager sign.
The store also operates as a base for Frankie’s Company Limited Money Transfer Business, which was also under the jurisdiction of the defendant.
It was the practice at the store contrary to good financial and accounting procedure to borrow money from the Supermarket cash when necessary in order to supplement the Money Transfer operation.
This was done on a regular basis with Head Office approval and the “short banking” would be recorded, usually on the Daily Banking Schedule.
“Head Office in Apia would subsequently reimburse the store by cheque delivered direct to the shop, which the defendant usually signed for. I am satisfied from the documents exhibited that the reimbursement cheques in this matter were personally received by the defendant."
“The defendant was supposed to use these cheques to reimburse the store operation. The prosecution’s case is that instead of doing that the defendant misappropriated the money to her own personal use.”
Justice Vui pointed out the defendant elected to give evidence and her attempts to lay the blame for this upon her administrative and other inadequacies and at the feet of the Branch Manager are rejected.
“She made no mention of this to the Police when interviewed by them. And she signed incriminating confessions and made incriminating admissions to the company officers investigating this matter."
“The defendant is an educated young lady having reached Year 13 level according to her testimony and it was clear from her demeanour and answers especially in cross examination that she is quite intelligent."
“The complainant company obviously shared this view that is why she was appointed Head Cashier of this branch in Savaii. She was smart enough to have her boss sign the 'short-banked' Deposit Slips even though she deposited the monies in the bank." “So that if something went amiss she could always blame against the Manager, which she tried to do in her oral evidence before the court. “I have no doubt if this was really the case she would have so informed the Police."
“I do not accept she was coerced into making incriminating admissions to the company investigators by their promise that if she repaid the monies the matter would not be referred to the police,” said Justice Vui.
“I do accept however the defendant repaid some $6,000 tala to the complainant company. This will be taken into account in due course."
“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the defendant stole the funds as alleged totaling $45,616.10. On those charges I find the defendant guilty.”
Justice Vui said the appropriate sentence the maximum penalty for this kind of offending is 10 years in prison for each charge.
“Theft as a servant especially by young women in this country seems to be a popular pastime and the court frowns seriously on those involved in such matters."
“Cases show that the normal penalty is imprisonment unless there are exceptional circumstances warranting some other treatment. No such exceptional circumstances exist here."
“This is a large scale systematic theft of a significant sum by someone in a trusted position." “The gravity of offending is high, the loss to the complainant company except for the $6,000 odd repaid by the defendant was great.”
There is no question an imprisonment penalty is required for your matter the only issue is for how long.
Prosecution have suggested a start point for sentence of six years in prison. However Justice Vui thinks that is too high.
“I will start sentence at 5 years in prison, from that start point is to be deducted mitigating factors in your favour. “The first is for your clean record and good background as outlined in the pre-sentence report including references from your pulenuu and faifeau. For that I make the normal deduction of 6 months, leaves 4 years 6 months."
“As stated post-offending you repaid some $6,000.00 of the money stolen from the complainant."
“While that is only about 13% of the companies loss it is some attempt by you to make amends and does to the extent of the repayment mitigate the company’s loss."
“I have no doubt you are not in a position to pay more and neither are your parents who told the probation officer as much as they love you they cannot afford to make compensation in this case."
“In any event even if the full amount were repaid that would not have saved you from a prison term given the seriousness of the offending."
“But for the amount you have paid back I will make a 3 month deduction by way of partial restitution, leaves a balance of 4 years and 3 months."
“Had you pleaded guilty at the outset of this trial you would have received a further and substantial deduction from sentence but you chose not to."
“You defended this matter even though you had paid back some of the monies stolen, you had made oral and written confessions of guilt to the company and even though there was plenty of documentary evidence against you as disclosed by the trial documents.
“Which you confirmed you had received but said you had left in Savaii when the trial commenced, leading to the court ordering the prosecution to supply you with a replacement set.
“Notwithstanding all this you persisted in your denial of the charges and even after conviction you continued to do so as evidenced by your protestations of innocence to the Probation Office recorded in your pre-sentence report.
“All this shows a lack of remorse which is why the court cannot accept the apology you expressed yesterday. “Which was too little too late.” Justice Vui noted the defendant is a young woman.
“As a gesture of general leniency I will remove a further three months from your sentence, leaving a balance of four years in prison.”