Lt. Governor Ipulasi Aitofele Sunia and Senator Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen both ordered to appear in the federal district court of Columbia on October 22nd
September 10, 2007
Both Lt. Governor Ipulasi Aitofele Sunia and Senator Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen made initial court appearances this afternoon: Ipulasi at the Honolulu federal district court and Tulifua at the Los Angeles federal District Court. Both were released after posting $50,000 unsecured bonds. They have been ordered to appear in the federal district court of Columbia on October 22. Both are allowed to travel to American Samoa but must release their travel documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Attorney General upon arrival. Ipulasi was represented by Honolulu attorney Brook Hart. The lt. Governor spent two nights at the Honolulu federal detention airport. Tulifua turned himself in to federal authorities in Los Angles. His local attorney Roy Hall Jr. declined to give any comments except to say that he is representing Tulifua.
The two are charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of fraud, one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count each of obstruction of an agency proceeding. Tulifua Lam Yuen is charged with one additional count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
According to the 31 page indictment Sunia and Lam Yuen conspired to personally enrich themselves, their relatives and their business associates by using their position in the ASG and relationships with the Director of Education Dr. Sili Sataua and Chief Procurement Officer Faau Seumanutafa to secure their companies lucrative payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for manufacturing and supplying classroom and library furniture for the Department of Education.
Itís alleged that the defendants agreed with the Director of Education to split up and give to their companies, Samoa Furnishings and handicrafts owned by Sunia and Tini Lam Yuen Inc. owned by Lam Yuen, lucrative payments for the product of DOE furniture. The government claims that they used false and fraudulent means, including improperly structuring invoices and other procurement documents in order to circumvent ASG procurement laws and avoid the competitive bidding process. That is they split purchase orders and invoices for items for a single school into amounts under $10,000 the level which would have required competitive bidding. In doing this, said the government the defendant eliminate price competition, charged artificially high prices for the furniture and wasted ASG and federal grant funds that could have been used for other DOE needs.
The indictment outlines examples of bribes given by the two defendants and the former chief procurement officer to the Director of DOE in return for awarding their companies the furniture and bookshelf contracts. Itís alleged that Suniaís company and Lam Yuenís companies both provided free carpentry work for the home of the DOE Director Sili Sataua. The Chief Procurement Officer is also alleged to have given $1,000 and $2000 ash in the spring of 2001 to the DOE Director and $3,000 to his wife in April of 2003. Lam Yuen is also accused of giving the DOE Director $1,000 and $3,000 in return for giving DOE contracts to his company. If convicted the two face prison sentences of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. Governor Togiola who returned home last night has not issued any comments concerning the Lt,. Governorís arrest. He did call a cabinet meeting late this afternoon.