Ex Sportslotto employees convicted and fined

Five former employees of the Samoa Sportslotto accused of embezzling money from the Gambling Authority have been slapped with fines escaping custodial sentence. 

Pio Paepae, Tamara Asofolau Brown, Masela Moananu, Telesia Bourne and Ulalia Sulufau were convicted and fined by the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon. 

The four defendants had pleaded guilty to multiple theft-as-a-servant charges against them. 

They are amongst nine former employees of the Sportslotto who were charged and sacked for their involvement in defrauding a machine used for selling lotto tickets. 

Five others have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are awaiting trial. 

Ms. Bourne was accused of stealing $560 and was facing five counts of theft as a servant, Mr. Paepae allegedly stole $2300 and was facing ten counts of theft as a servant and Ms. Sulufau was accused of stealing $400 and was facing five counts of theft as a servant. 

Ms. Brown was facing seven counts of theft as a servant for $2000 and Ms. Moananu was facing seven counts of theft as a servant for an amount of $700.  

According to a summary of facts, the defendants were employed by the Samoa Sportslotto and were all engaged in the business of selling lotto tickets. 

The court heard that the defendants stole different amounts, in total $9000, at different times, at different capacities. 

The method used by the defendants was when a customer comes to buy a ticket they would enter the amount in the machine, then they would turn it off before the ticket is printed out. 

On restarting the machine the ticket would come out and the defendants would hand it to the customers, but the internal mechanism of the machine would cancel the ticket and still allow to print the ticket. 

Justice Vui Clarence Nelson said using this method would allow the defendants to defraud the gambling authority, with some of the accused employing this method for a lengthy period of time. 

He noted the impact of the offending is the misappropriation of $9000 to the Gambling Authority and the agency losing the confidence of customers, causing a downturn in sales. 

The offending, he said, led to the authority to update their machines and installing cameras at a considerable cost, and staff being ridiculed by the public.  

In considering the sentence for Ms. Brown and Mr. Paepae, Justice Nelson said he took into consideration the issue of restitution. 

He said he was impressed with the willingness from the defendants to pay restitution and apologise, which reflects their attempt to right their wrong. 

The Supreme Court Justice added he has considered a monetary penalty instead of a probationary and custodial sentence. 

He then convicted Mr. Paepae and fined him $1250 and Ms. Brown was also convicted but fined $950. 

For Ms. Bourne and Ms. Sulufau, they have been convicted and fined $250, while Ms. Moananu was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $350. 

The defendants were given until close of business on Monday next week to pay the fine and default will land them in prison for 6 months. 

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