Samoa has a “professional” con artist.
Fata Fereti Fiti, of Mulifanua, has been given the title by District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papalii, following a string of incidents where he conned different members of the community.
As if hurting innocent people through dishonesty and conniving ways was not bad enough, Fiti also lied to the Office of the Electoral Commissioner in a bid to manipulate the vote system.
Six different victims are reeling from his dishonesty with incidents spanning from September 2011, February 2013, March 2013, January 2015 and October to November 2016.
Last week, Judge Alalatoa jailed Fiti for 26 months.
“The community is not safe from you,” Judge Alalatoa said in her ruling.
“I view you as a high risk to innocent, gullible and vulnerable members of our community who must be protected against your evil schemes.
“It is certainly impracticable and inconsistent with the safety of the community to grant you a non custodial sentence and keep you in the community.”
Fiti’s offending spree started on 13/09/11.
The first victim is a 57-year-old male of Palisi who went to Farm Tech Supply at Fugalei to purchase some chairs. The shop was closed but Fiti approached the victim and misled him into believing he worked for Farm Tech and that he could place his order through him.
The victim believed him and gave $400, which he ran off with.
Seven days later on 20/09/11, he set his sights on an 86-year-old male of Vailele. The victim and his family went to the Quarantine Office (“QO”) at Matautu to treat their fine mats (faaasu).
“You were there and you asked the victim if they were there to treat their fine mats. The victim replied “yes” and you then accompanied the victim’s driver to the QO where the finemats were left overnight for treatment to be uplifted the next day.
“Sometime after the victim and his family had left the QO, you went back and misled the QO staff that your father had sent you to pick up the finemats as the trip had been cancelled. The staff believed you and released the finemats to you. Of the 9 finemats you took, eight were valued at $2000 and one (1) at $5000; a total of $21,000.”
The third incident happened between 1 and 28 February 2013. The victim this time was a 67-year-old male of Faleasiu. He was at the Court complex and had a conversation with Fiti where he told him “o a’u e fai la’u piki maukegi”.
“You also represented to the victim that his sons could go on this pumpkin picking scheme.
You asked the victim on this first meeting if he had a fine mat for your faalavelave. The next day you uplifted this from the victim’s house. “On the same month, you called the victim and indicated that two of his sons could go on the trip and to pay you $200 each for their passports.
To spice up things, you added that the money would be sent to NZ by bank cheque to process the visas. The victim, whom by now was completely under your spell and trusted you, paid you $400.
“A week later, you kept the momentum going on your deception by asking the victim for a size 2 pig for the lawyer in charge of processing the travel documents. This was done. The pig is said to be valued at $400. After that you asked for $100 from the victim, he gave you $70 instead. “On the same month of February you asked for another size 2 pig. Still believing you were preparing travel documents for the victim’s sons, he killed the pig, roasted it and delivered it to you.
“On the same occasion, you uttered words of inducement to further lure the victim into your plot of “aua gei misi le aso Lulu e o aku ai kamaiki e fai le lakou fogo in le ofisa o le loia o Latu”. But you knew very well this was a lie. The total value of the fruits of your false representations from this victim was $2170.
A month later, Fiti struck again. This time the victim was a 54-year-old male of Vailele-uta.
“You assisted the victim, Filiga Miti in processing his entitlement with NPF. The victim was informed to uplift his cheque on 9 March 2013. On 8 March 2013, you marched into the NPF office and misled the officer that you were Filiga Miti. Tricked by your false representation, the cheque was released to you.
“You then went to Westpac Bank, and misled the bank officer you knew there that you were one and the same person as Filiga Miti and cashed out the cheque of $592.32. The next day when the victim went to uplift his cheque from NPF it was then discovered that the cheque was released to the wrong person.”
On 27/01/15, Fiti approached another victim who was businessman at Alafua.
“You asked the victim for $500 to process your father’s land and it would be repaid in due course. The victim believed you and gave you $500. “On 28/01/15 you again approached the same victim and sought $1000 again for the land documents on the basis it would be repaid. This was done.
“On 5/02/15, you went back and conned another $700 off the same victim who gave in yet again to your request on the belief you would repay it. This never happened. The total monies you obtained by deception from this victim is $2200.”
On 31 October 2016, he turned his attention to a 53-year-old female of Lalovaea who works at Nelson Public Library.
“You told the victim here that you had a half acre land you could sell her at a low price. Believing this to be true, the victim went with you to MNRE to obtain the plan of the land. The victim then gave you $60.
“You requested further monies to process the paperwork and on 1/11/16, the victim gave you $50. On 2/11/16 she gave you $130.The next day $800.00. The total monies the victim gave you was $1,040.”
Fiti was also charged with misleading the Electoral Office.
“According to the SOF, on 21/05/15 you went to the office of the Electoral Commissioner (“OEC”) to register your name for the 2016 General Elections under the village Mulivai. However your application was rejected by the EC on the basis the Pulenuu of that village could not confirm you were from Mulivai.
“On 27/05/15, you returned to the OEC with the pulenuu of Mulivai for registration of your name. You told the EC that your name was Hile Fiti Tala and the Mulivai village council had confirmed you were from Mulivai.
“The EC accepted your explanation and proceeded to process your registration using the E –Roll system for scanning your finger prints. However, it was then discovered that Hile Tili’s fingerprints had already been registered on the system under yours truly, as Fareti Fiti.
But your deception did not stop there. Even when caught by OEC, on 16/09/15, a person by the name of Siaumau was on the road at Moamoa waiting for the bus. You were with some men. You stopped the vehicle you were travelling in and asked Siaumau to come with you to register for Siumu and she would be paid accordingly.
“She did accompany you. At the OEC further enquiries were made of Siaumau where it was discovered she was not actually from Siumu.”
Judge Alalatoa said Fiti had become a professional at conning people. “Your counsel tells the Court you are remorseful but I doubt that very much,” she said.
“I am not satisfied that the remorse in this case goes beyond that which is implicit in your plea of guilt but more due to the situation you are now caught in. But not once have you personally apologised to any of the victims to show true remorse.
Your deceit is on the high level even to the point of misleading the EC whom as we all know, bears the hard job of registering and keeping accurate records for Election purposes.
“But you had the audacity to deceive the EC and procure the commission of an offence against the EA. I bear in mind in this sentence the implied policies of the EA and the need to protect its due process and integrity.
“The level of premeditation on your part is significant. As I said above, you chose your victims well. You breached their trust.”
The Court noted that his actions were calculated, manipulative and cruel. “This was chronic serial offending, committed with complete disregard of the welfare of the victims. To a substantial part it was committed whilst you were on bail.
“As I observed in Su’a, this type of offending is becoming far too prevalent in our small society. It was so easy for you to con the victims. Although you finished school at Standard 3, this is not reflected in the level of your manipulative schemes. You managed by quite ingenious and very premeditated methods to extract money and other items from each of the six victims. In simple terms, you became a professional.”