SAMOAN CRICKET PLAYERS GIVEN LIGHT SENTENCE FOR VOTER ID SCANDAL

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 27, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Six Samoan cricket players were sentenced on Monday to three years probation for possessing fake voter identification cards, which were intended to be used to travel to Honolulu in 1999.

The men were part of a village cricket team that was scheduled to compete in the Samoa Hawai‘i Flag Day in 1999.

Immigration agents at the airport caught the men before they boarded a flight bound for Hawai‘i.

Misiona Seumalu, Saveaasoi Afereti, Samuelu Tofa, Apisaloma Fisaga, Alosio Akeli and Sonoma Ieremia pled no contest to one count of conspiracy to commit forgery under a plea agreement with the government.

In return the six testified against the culprits of the scam -- former Associate Judge Afuola Kalasa, Meloma Afuola and lawmaker Gaoteote Palaie -- who each received two years probation during their sentencing in January. They were also fined $2,000 each.

The six players, who are natives of Samoa, told the court that they were not aware that using false travel documents was a crime. They said they were "following their leader."

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