Samoa doesn’t need these criminal minds – even if they are in jail

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 08 May 2018, 12:00AM

This time last year, two Chinese men were convicted of stealing money to the tune of $70,000 from Automated Teller Machines belonging to the Bank of South Pacific.

Zhong Shuiming and Yang Quigreen were convicted by Judge Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma for charges including intentionally accessing A.T.M. without authority and theft.

During the hearing, the Court was told by Shirley Pauga, Manager of the Retail Banking of the Bank of the South Pacific, that the men had used a number of fake cards as part of their scam. 

 “Matautu was the first machine where we had captured most of the cards (that had been swallowed),” the Court was told. “From there, we saw most of the transactions were rejected by the machine for the reasons that I’ve mentioned before like, invalid pins and so forth.” 

During the investigation, the bank found nearly thirty cards. 

 “These cards all look the same. Its colour is blue and black. The only stuff on the card is the word VIP on the top left corner and five digit numbers down the bottom. They all look the same except different digit numbers at the bottom.” 

The men are today serving jail terms of five years each.

But Judge Fepulea’i made some very interesting comments.

“There is a high degree of planning and premeditation,” he said. “These were no ordinary thefts and most likely involved others. You might have been the ones making the withdrawals but there was obviously a great deal of planning before you arrived in Samoa, and started stealing from the A.T.M’s. It would have involved a fraudulent process obtaining identities and back data of overseas customers.”

He added that the scheme involved the manufacturing of counterfeiting cards using information that was retained.

 “It also involves you traveling all the way from China, with those counterfeit cards to an island where you have never been before and withdrawing numerous and substantial sums from A.T.M.’s of a bank within three days.”

Now this was in May 2017. Fast forward to May this year, the front-page story titled “Romanian guilty of sophisticated theft” published on the Sunday Samoan brought back that feeling of dejavu.

This time, a Romanian man who came to Samoa and used counterfeited cards to steal money from the Bank of South Pacific’s Automated Teller Machines (A.T.M.) was found guilty. Catalin Raazvan appeared before District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i where he was found guilty of 30 charges in connection with the theft. And like Judge Fepulea’i, Judge Alalatoa expressed very similar concerns about this latest offending.

 “I must say that the modus operandi by the defendant here was more than sophisticated. He had in his possession six cell phones. I mean who does that? Also found in his possession as well were the sticker dots,” she said.

Prior to being picked up and arrested in Samoa, the Romanian had tried the same thing in Tonga. Obviously when he came to Samoa, he thought he could get away with it. Thankfully, the Bank, probably still smarting from what the Chinese had done, immediately caught him. 

“The photo sent from Tonga to B.S.P. produced as exhibit depicted the clothing the person was wearing and tattoos clearly evident on the nape of his neck.” 

“The same clothing and cap was produced as evidence. The same counterfeit card depicting Palasia Hotel he evidently used on the machines here was the same as that depicted in the Tongan alert.” 

“Although I am mindful that the defendant was not charged at all in Tonga, I am satisfied on the uncontested evidence before me, that he is the same person referred to in the alert.”

Now the Romanian has yet to be sentenced. But we can probably put our money on it that he will soon join the Chinese men at Tafa’igata Prison. Which is a worry, isn’t it?

Let’s not underestimate these men. They are true blue scammers who are capable of doing anything. The warning from Judge Alalatoa about these men needs to be taken very seriously.

“The whole modus operandi you undertook was dishonest and fraudulent.”

Samoa doesn’t need them – even if they are in jail. One of them here is enough. 

Two, three or four of them is way too many. It’s time to get them out of here before they start to influence the other criminal minds in Samoa or we might hear the end of this. What do you think? 

Have a peaceful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 08 May 2018, 12:00AM

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