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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 28, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---Three members of a church youth group who pleaded guilty to involvement in last year’s fake birth certificate scandal were sentenced in the High Court on Monday.

The harshest of the sentences was given to Konelio Faulalo, a native of Samoa, who traveled to American Samoa in 1984 and never returned to his home country.

Konelio is accused of using the birth certificate of an American Samoa police officer, Sama’auga Utuga, to travel with the Talalelei Church Youth Group to Hawai‘i and the U.S. mainland.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced Faulalo to a five-year probationary period and a $1,000 fine in a plea agreement with the government.

He originally was charged with six counts of forgery, which could have sent him to jail for 42-years.

The High Court also accepted the plea agreement from police officer Utuga and Esera Kaleopa. The two were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit forgery, but under the plea agreement those charges were reduced to aiding and abetting.

Kaleopa allowed his birth certificate to be used to secure false travel documents for Liutai Maona Iakopo of Samoa.

Iakopo earlier pleaded guilty to five counts of forgery under an agreement with the government.

Both Utuga and Kaleopa were sentenced by Associate Justice Lyle Richmond to two years of probation and required to pay a fine of $500.

Before sentencing Konelio, Kruse admonished government prosecutor Robert Maez for not going after government employees who were responsible for the issuance of the fake birth certificates.

Kruse said the court found that it is quite easy to obtain fake identification from the government.

Kruse told Maez that the government's Task Force on White Collar Crime is not achieving much by going after the defendants accused in the birth certificate scandal but attention should focus on government employees who have a hand in issuing the fake identifications.

Kruse also revealed that of the six natives of Samoa who traveled with the Talalelei Youth Church group, three have not returned. One disappeared at Los Angeles International Airport, another at San Francisco Airport and one never rejoined the group in Honolulu.

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