All charges dismissed against head of LTA legal division

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, Tuatalatala.com (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • Tears of relief for Anoanoa’i Pepe Lafai as she walks tall after this week's court ruling cleared her of numerous counts of forgery as LTA Legal Division Manager
    Tears of relief for Anoanoa’i Pepe Lafai as she walks tall after this week's court ruling cleared her of numerous counts of forgery as LTA Legal Division Manager

 

The Supreme Court has dismissed all charges against Anoanoa’i Pepe Lafai who was charged with numerous counts of forgery last year while serving as Manager for the Legal Division at the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

An emotional and thankful Lafai cried as she spoke to reporters outside the courtroom.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. It was the verdict I was expecting but, you know, I’m grateful that this is the decision. I’d like to thank first and foremost my counsellor Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i as well as Richard Crichton and most especially my immediate family, my parents,” she said.

Her sisters and their husbands and other family members travelled from New Zealand to support Lafai. She also thanked her husband and daughter, saying “it was a stressful time for me.”

“These charges were very nauseous. We thank God, praise God and I think that’s all I’ll say for now. Justice was served. Truth and justice will always prevail. Do the right thing and truth and justice will respond,” Lafai said.

Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagaloa issued a 26-page ruling on the case Monday afternoon, noting the prosecution failed to prove any of the charges against Lafai “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Lafai was charged with: one count each for forgery; using a forged document; altering, concealing, destroying or reproducing documents with intent to deceive; using altered or reproduced documents with intent to deceive; damaging or interfering with electronic data and forgery of electronic data.

The offenses were alleged to have taken place on 13 March 2018.

The forgery charges against Lafai and her co-defendant Mata’afa Sepelini are in relation to changing the vehicle year for certain vehicles on the Land Transport Authority computer system called “RTAS” – Road Transport Administration System.

Mata’afa was charged with four counts of forgery; four counts of using forged documents; four counts of altering, concealing, destroying or reproducing documents with intent to deceive; four counts of using altered or reproduced documents with intent to deceive; four counts of damaging or interfering with electronic data; and four counts of forgery of electronic data.

The said offendings are alleged to have taken place on 5 December 2017, 19 February 2018 and 5 April 2018 when Mata’afa was Assistant Chief Executive Officer (CEO) looking after LTA in Savai’i.

The court convicted him of two counts of using altered or reproduced documents with intent to deceive and all four counts of using forged documents. All other charges have been dropped.

Sentencing for Mata’afa has been scheduled for the afternoon of 12 April, 2019.

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