Suspended lawyer denies obtain by deception charge

A suspended lawyer has denied falsely claiming to have a Court order that allowed him to keep the tools of a contractor with whom he was locked in a business dispute. 

In the Supreme Court this week, suspended lawyer, Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo, took to the witness box to clear his name during a trial on a charge of obtainment by deception. 

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which dates back to 2015. 

The charge stemmed from a dispute between Pa’u and a construction contractor named Alapati Brown, from the A.L.C.C. Brown Construction company. 

The suspended lawyer had sought the service of the builder back in 2015 to build a house that was also intended to serve as a shopfront and law office at Lalovaea. 

But, before the construction works for the small house could be finished, Pa’u terminated Mr. Brown’s contract and told the workers at the site they were not free to remove their equipment. 

In his evidence, Pa’u said he decided to end the contract when the contractor continued to ask for more money for the works, on which he has already spent $26,000. 

He claimed the workers were sleeping during working hours and spent more than he should on the project. 

He told the court the contractor owes him money for the unfinished project totalling $26,000. 

But when the workers went to remove the equipment from Pa’u’s home the suspended lawyer refused. They alleged he did so by saying he had a Court Order entitling him to hold the equipment. 

Pa’u told the Court that he did not use the words “Court order” and told a Police Officer who contacted him about the case that he was preparing to apply for a Court order. 

He tendered an ex-parte motion in Court seeking an order to stop the removal of the equipment.

Prosecutor and Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Lucy Sio-Ofoia, disputed the claim from Pa’u. 

She put it to Pa’u that he had written a letter urging the complainant to refrain from entering his property as there was a trespass order against him and his workers and that, in saying so, he was referring to a Court order. 

Pa’u denied that he was referencing a Court Order. 

He countered that any person can put up a sign saying no trespassing and it can be taken as an order. 

Mrs. Ofoia told the accused that he is a lawyer and the only institute that can issue an Order is the Court, therefore his letter referred to a Court order that did not exist. 

Pa’u denied the allegations. 

In 2015, the complainant had sought the assistance of Police to return his equipment from Pa’u’s property in Lalovaea. 

He lodged a complaint and gave the Police a list of the equipment the defendant had refused to return. 

Meanwhile, about a week after the defendant stopped the work he hired another builder Fanualelei Sagato to complete the building work. 

Sagato and his men used the equipment the defendant refused to return to finish the building of the house.

Around July 2015 the defendant filed a suit against the complainant seeking, among other matters, an order to prohibit the removal of the equipment from his premises.

A search warrant was issued on the 19th of November 2015 and was executed by Police to search the defendant’s premises at Lalovaea and remove the equipment.

Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma presided over the matter.

Pa’u represented himself in his trial. 

His matter has been adjourned for a decision on March 27 2020. 

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