“Con woman” jailed for deception

A female described by her victims as a “con woman” has been jailed for two years and three months.

Alakoni Pinetuaoi Sio Tevaga, from Samalaeulu, Vaitele Tai and Sa’anapu, had been accused of running an immigration scam that has cost a Fagamalo couple about $20,000.

She has been convicted of two charges of obtaining by deception. Her sentence was handed down by Supreme Court Justice, Lei’ataualesa Daryl Clarke.

Tevaga was represented by lawyer, Arthur Lesa, while the prosecutor was Fuifui Ioane of the Attorney General’s Office.

According to Justice Leiataualesa, the crime committed by the defendant involves a significant amount of money, extent of her planning and premeditation, offending was ongoing and lengthy and was carried out while on bail for the same offence of obtaining by deception.

He also said these charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and falls within the jurisdiction of the District Court. 

“I am satisfied that it is desirable and expedient in the interests of justice to hear and determine your sentencing within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,” he told the defendant.

“In terms of the charges, you entered guilty pleas to the charges on the hearing date when two other charges against you were withdrawn by leave on prosecution application and dismissed.”

According to the Police summary of facts, the defendant was contacted by the victim to assist in processing a visitor’s visa to Australia for his partner.

“On 16 September 2016, you obtained from the victim $675 for his new passport, $150 for a statutory declaration and $5,800 for air fares. The total amount taken by you was $6,625.

“On 23 September 2016, the Australian High Commission contacted the victim by email, advising him that the visitor visa had been declined. 

“You never disclosed to the victim any information about his passport application or the statutory declaration, but showed him only a hand written receipt for $5,800 for the air tickets. 

“It seems that no air tickets were ever provided by you to the victim.

“You then told the victim to prepare the second visa application. 

“You also told him that your friend ‘Carolyn’, employed in the Australian High Commission, would approve the visa application. 

“The victim then compiled the material for the second visa application and this is said to have been lodged on 28 September, 2016. 

“On 17 October 2016, you obtained a further $14,000 from the victim including all fees and payments for the second visa application.

“The victim and his partner made contact with you requesting correspondence relating to the visa application. You then created a false email under Carolyn’s name, which made the victim believe the visa had been lodged. 

“The victim had authorised you to act on his behalf during the visa application process. The victim and his partner waited until they discovered that you had lied to them about the visa application process and that the person named Carolyn, had no knowledge of the visa application or of you.

“The total amount you obtained by deception from the victim was $20,625. None of this money has been repaid directly to the victim. It is accepted by the victim in the V.I.R, however that you did pay for a one way airfare for him to travel to Australia valued at $1,405 so the true amount of the direct loss is $19,220.”

The complainant or the victim is a male of Rosemount, Australia. 

He is a former Hotel Manager at the Savaii Lagoon Resort. 

According to Justice Leiataualesa, the victim explained in the Victim’s Impact Report the significant impact that the offending has had on him and his family. 

“He says that the money that you took was a large portion of his savings,” said Justice Leiataualesa.

“In addition to the direct financial costs of your offending, he incurred significant additional costs associated with processing the visa application and travel to Samoa for the hearing among other costs.

“He also describes significant emotional distress arising from your actions and anger at himself for being taken advantage of in such a way.

“The only tangible benefit received from you by the victim was the one way air ticket valued $1,405 for the victim to travel to Australia, which he perceptively understands to have been deliberately made a one way so that he wouldn’t return to Samoa. 

“No apology has been rendered.”

In reading out the aggravating features, Justice Leiataualesa took into consideration the significant amount of money involved.

“The extent of your planning and premeditation,” he said.

“Your offending was ongoing and lengthy, you carried out your offending while on bail for the same offence of obtain by deception for which you were subsequently convicted and sentenced to a non-custodial sentence in December 2016 and you created a false email account and impersonated an Australian government employee to perpetrate your offending.

“Through your counsel, you have confirmed the Summary of Facts that says that you had lied to your victim about the visa application process for his new partner. 

“You had also lied about ‘Carolyn’ at the Australian High Commission being involved in the visa application process and then created a false email account under Carolyn’s name, from which emails were then sent to mislead the victim into believing that the visa application had been lodged. 

“This is quite contrary to what you have said in your letter to the Court, where you seek to reverse the blame of the victim’s loss to the victim himself.

“You dishonestly took a large amount of money from the victim, lied about the visa process, created a false email with the purpose of misleading the victim and then apparently used most of the money for purposes other than for which it was given to you. 

“That you continue to blame the victim for his loss and attempt to portray yourself as a Good Samaritan and a victim yourself is disgraceful.”

According to Justice Leiataualesa, prosecution seeks a custodial sentence with a start point of three years and an uplift of six months for her prior convictions for the same offending.

“As your offending here occurred when you were on bail for the same offence of obtain by deception, I will incorporate that into factors aggravating of the offending and not as an uplift as a factor personal to you as an offender,” said Justice Leiataualesa.

“In determining the appropriate sentence, I have considered the case authorities referred to by prosecution including, in particular, the sentencing approach set out by His Honour, Chief Justice Sapolu in Police v Ah Kuoi [2016] WSSC 45. 

“Alakoni, a custodial sentence is warranted in your case to denounce your conduct, to deter you and others from committing this or similar offending and to protect the community from your actions.

“I apply the totality in sentencing approach and information S265/17 as the lead charge.

“I adopt three years start point for sentence and I deduct three months for the $1,405 paid for the one way ticket for the victim and deduct six months for the guilty plea.

“So for information S265/17, you are convicted and sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment. 

“For information S266/17, you are convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, that sentence to be served concurrently with S265/17.”

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