Fake FBI Agents In Am. Samoa Receive Prison Sentence

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Pair get 7 years each for hiring workers without intending to pay

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 12, 2013) – In American Samoa, Chief Justice Michael Kruse was amazed at the number of people who Aperaamo Levi and Alatise Fonoti lied to, claiming they were from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office and hired to do construction work, which the defendants said would be paid for by the FBI. Last week Friday, Kruse sentenced Fonoti and Levi to seven years each in prison for their crime.

The pair were each charged with stealing, which in this case was appropriating property and services of people to do labor for the purpose of depriving them of their money by deception. Levi pled guilty to the stealing charge while Fonoti was convicted by a jury for the stealing count.

During sentencing the Chief Justice noted that in Levi's case, the Probation report stated that in 2009, Fonoti and Levi had agreed to announce among the public that they (Fonoti and Levi) were representatives of the FBI, saying they had money from the federal agency that would compensate people who were willing to work for them. The plan that these two had agreed upon shocked the court, given that so many people believed it, said Kruse

The court pointed out that maybe it was because of joblessness that people believed this scam. To the court, it was Levi who was the mastermind, because he wanted a piece of land from Fonoti. The pair had people clean up a parcel of Fonoti’s land and not pay them.

Fonoti apologized to the court, noting he was not the one who had initiated this scam. It was Levi and his mother who came to his house and lied to him, said Fonoti.

However Levi informed the court it was Fonoti who was behind the scam and was the lead person.

Kruse handed down a straight sentence for Levi and Fonoti — to each serve seven years in prison.

The case came to light after Wayne Mataio told CID investigators that he and his workers were yet to be paid for services rendered to the defendants, who claimed they were working for the FBI office.

Mataio told police that Fonoti hired him and his workers to clear out a section of his property for construction, and Mataio, as the supervisor, would earn $10 per hour, in addition to a bonus of $4,000.

Fonoti allegedly told Mataio that they would be paid with funds from the FBI office. In addition, Mataio said the defendants told the workers they would be paid $900 each and that those using their private vehicles would get an additional $100 per day.

Court filings state the workers were also promised items like toasters, microwaves, DVD players, and TVs. The defendants are alleged to have told Mataio that he would get $2,000 to buy food for the workers but that did not happen. A total of 26 men, including Mataio and seven members of his family worked for the defendants and none of them received any type of payment.

The victims claimed the defendants warned them they would be thrown in jail and would never see their families again if they were to ever question them. During a time period of about three months, the workers told police they would receive phone calls from the defendants saying their checks were ready but none were ever handed out.

The defendants told the workers that an FBI boss, a woman named Kim, had called and said their checks would be ready once the order for materials for the entire job was sent in.

When the workers asked to see and speak with Kim, they were told by the defendants that she was too busy. When contacted by police detectives at his residence on March 17, Fonoti told authorities he works for the FBI under the CIS Division.

Investigators also contacted Levi who refused to make a written statement but answered in the affirmative when police asked him whether he is — or ever was — a member of the FBI. Local authorities confirmed with FBI Agent Matthew McDonald that neither Levi nor Fonoti were ever associated with the FBI.

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