CLIMATE OF CORRUPTION DETAILED IN AMERICAN SAMOA FOOD STAMP TRIAL

admin's picture

By Richard J. Coleman

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 28, 2000 – Samoa News)---Food Stamps Program employee Va‘aloa Siu admitted in court yesterday afternoon that she had accepted $225 worth of illegally-issued food stamps when they were offered to her by a fellow employee.

However, she added, she did not cash the food stamps at the Alamai Store in Leone although she has shopped there once in a while. The store has been identified by the government as the main location for the cashing in of the illegally issued food stamps, primarily because of Carol Galea‘i's influence and permission.

Mrs. Siu's admissions were made during Mrs. Galea‘i's trial on eight counts of accepting stolen food stamps. The trial goes into its third day this morning and is expected to conclude sometime this afternoon.

An assistant program eligibility specialist, she also told the jury of three men and four women that, among other things, she had once found a bright blue and yellow "Cheese Curls" can with food stamps in it.

Intended as a camouflage of sorts, the can was in a desk that Mrs. Siu shared with her co-worker, Aigasalemalama Petaia, who also faces her own trial in the near future. The can was apparently used to move the illegally issued food stamps around the office or to take it out.

Mrs. Siu further testified that she had discovered the names of several of her family members on Food Stamp files, but had personal knowledge that those family members were either off-island or deceased.

She then approached eligibility workers, and fellow defendants, Aigasalemalama Petaia and Salamina Tiumalu, and told them of her discovery.

"They told me not to ever say anything about this to anyone at all," Mrs. Siu recalled on the witness stand.

However, Mrs. Siu's testimony made Chief Justice Michael Kruse a little uneasy as she was testifying without any legal assistance to protect her rights. Her court-appointed attorney, Asaua Fuimaono, was not present in the courtroom while she was on the witness stand.

Judge Kruse stopped her from testifying and recessed the jury for the day to allow him to check into the legal issues pertaining to his concerns.

Technically, she is still a defendant in the food stamps forgery and stealing case even though she has worked out a tentative agreement with the government whereby she would plead guilty to one count of stealing, a misdemeanor that calls for up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The government agreed to drop one count of forgery against Mrs. Siu in return for a guilty plea on the stealing charge and truthful testimony against the other defendants.

What made the Chief Justice uneasy about the government's use of Mrs. Siu as a witness is that she is testifying well before the court has reviewed the tentative plea agreement.

Assistant Attorney General Maez, the prosecutor in the Galea‘i trial, told Samoa News that Fuimaono had already agreed to the tentative agreement and has signed it. "He agreed to her testifying in this case," the prosecutor recalled.

In the meantime, Mrs. Siu is currently on leave from her job at the food stamps office.

Other witnesses

"I can't say for sure that she was or that she wasn't involved," Human and Social Services Director Marie Ma‘o testified regarding Galea‘i. "Our investigation didn't show her direct involvement in the illegal issuing of the food stamps. But it does show that she assisted in cashing them at the Alamai Store."

The government still has at least two more witnesses to call, and then the defense will be able to call witnesses before closing arguments.

The trial's judicial panel includes Chief Associate Judge Tua‘olo and Associate Judge Sagapolutele. Galea‘i is being represented by David Vargas.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment