RETIRED AMERICAN SAMOA JUDGE AND LAWMAKER PLEAD "NO CONTEST" IN

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SCANDAL

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 13, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)--A retired judge, his wife and a lawmaker are scheduled to be sentenced on December 29th for their role in the 1999 fake voter identification scandal.

Judge Afuola Kalasa, his wife Meloma and lawmaker Gaoteote Tofau Palaie were originally charged with 14 counts of conspiracy and forgery for their role in obtaining fake voter identification cards for six members of a cricket team to travel to Hawai‘i in 1999.

The six members are natives of Samoa and they were caught by Immigration agents at Pago Pago International Airport before boarding a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu.

Conspiracy is a felony that calls for up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Forgery is also a felony but it calls for up to seven years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

On December 11th the Attorney General's Office filed a change-of-plea agreement for the three defendants, just two days before the case was to have gone to trial.

Under the plea agreement accepted by the court, Judge Kalasa and his wife each pleaded "no contest" to three counts of aiding and abetting in the issuing of false certificate while Rep. Gaoteote pleaded "no contest" to two counts of the same charge.

The new charge is a class A misdemeanor that calls for up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

It is not known who initiated the voter ID scam.

Rep. Gaoteote was re-elected to the territorial House of Representatives during the November 7th general election and will be sworn into office on January 3rd.

It remains unknown if any action will be taken against Rep. Gaoteote by the House membership when the Legislature convenes for the 27th Legislature on January 20th.

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