Former RMI Government Workers Get Seven Years For Stealing

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Plea deal brings jail time for defrauding Ministry of Health

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Sept. 4, 2012) – Seven years of jail time and a $17,000 fine is the sentence issued to two former Marshall Islands government workers who stole money from the Ministry of Health.

Chief Justice Carl Ingram approved identical plea bargain agreements between the Attorney General’s office and Nella Nashion and Steve Samuel earlier this week. Both worked at the Ministry of Finance and were charged in 2011. In a separate case tried earlier this year, they were found guilty by a four-person jury of multiple counts of defrauding the government of U.S. federal grant funding. They agreed to a plea bargain in this additional case that relates to money stolen from the Ministry of Health that was laundered through the local auto company MGAS.

Marshall Islands prosecutors had originally charged both Nashion and Samuel with 25 counts of theft relating to 20 checks from the government valued at $344,580.50.

In the plea bargain deal, Nashion, represented by Tiantaake Beero of Micronesian Legal Services, and Samuel, represented by private attorney Witten Philippo, pled guilty to nine of 20 counts of cheating. The additional 11 cheating charges and five more charges — ranging from conspiracy to private financial gain by a public official — were dismissed by government prosecutors Natan Brechtefeld and Jack Jorbon.

The nine charges they pled guilty to involved theft of $120,048.

The sentence is broken into two parts. For four of the cheating charges, Ingram sentenced them to five years’ imprisonment that ends in June 2017. For the remaining five charges, he sentenced them to serve an additional two years in jail, with three years of probation. The jail terms will end in 2019 and the probation period ends in 2022.

For Nashion, Ingram’s order notes that if Majuro jail is not suitable for female prisoners, she can be incarcerated in another location designated by the Marshall Islands government. The jail does not have facilities for women and historically all women who have been convicted of crimes in the Marshall Islands have been placed under house arrest.

Both were also ordered to pay restitution to the Marshall Islands government of $17,000.

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