Woman Pastor jailed for theft

A 45-year-old woman, who pastored a small church at Vaitele, has been jailed for four and half years for the theft of $118,991.

The decision against Matagofie Brown Laititi, of Alamagoto and Vaimoso, was delivered by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke, in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

She pleaded guilty to 267 charges of theft as a servant and 267 charges of false accounting, which relate to the time she was employed by Drake & Co Barristers, Solicitors and Notaries Company, from 2016 to 2018.

The defendant was represented by lawyer, Arthur Lesa.

In his decision, Justice Leiataualesa said he was astonished by the defendant’s actions “given your continued reference to God…”

“In your pre-sentence report, you yourself referred to your sadness of your offending because it has affected you so-called calling from God,” said Justice Leiataualesa.

 “Despite your so-called calling from God, which you appeared to speak openly about at your former workplace, you were at the same time falsifying documents, stealing from your employers on a regular basis and lying and misleading Drakes & Co and its customers.”

Justice Leiataualesa said that if the mother of four truly had a calling from God, she would have realised the harm she was causing and how wrong it was to steal.

“The tenth commandment of course says ‘thou shall not steal.’ You did so with 267 occasions.”

The Court took six and a half years as a starting point for Mrs. Laititi’s sentence as recommended by the prosecution.

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Justice Leiataualesa settled on four and a half years after deducting time for the defendant’s remorse, good character and early guilty plea.

During the proceedings, the Court heard that Mrs. Laititi was responsible for receiving loan repayments from customers and issuing receipts on behalf of her employer.

All monies received from the customers were then recorded in a loan book including the date the payment was made and other details.

On 267 separate occasions from June 2016 to December 2018, the defendant received payments from customers and would issue receipts on some occasions.

In the course of writing receipts, the defendant would write and issue the yellow receipt to the customer while placing a hard paper underneath so the writing would not be reflected on the carbon copy.

The woman would then write and issue the actual receipt and receipts number to a different customer when in fact that receipt number was entered in the previous customer’s record in the loan book.

Her offending came to light when the company called the customers to follow up with their payments. The company then conducted an internal investigation which uncovered the crime.

In his submission before the Court, lawyer Mr. Lesa asked for 3 years custodial sentence for his client.

He said the defendant’s children have provided a letter of support for their mother because she was the breadwinner for the family.

 “She provides as justification (for stealing), she instructed the theft money was used to care for her daughters and her family,” said the lawyer.  

“She accepts that her offending is quite serious and she is aware the Court imposes custodial sentence (on theft) she accepts that.”

Mrs. Laititi was accompanied by her husband in Court.

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