A Tongatapu woman’s 15-months imprisonment sentence for altering more than 40 cheques and stealing $18,189 pa’anga from an uncle’s business has been fully suspended.
Lolina ‘Ofa, 24, from Tokomololo, appeared at the Supreme Court on January 29 on three charges of forgery, theft and knowingly dealing with forged documents.
The defendant was customarily adopted by her maternal uncle and his wife since she was 11- year-old.
The defendant’s adoptive parents looked after a business, ‘Lyfe Apparel and Signage’ belonging to her adoptive mother’s brother, Sonatane Hafoka who lived in Australia.
The business and the main office were located inside the residence where the defendant and her adoptive parents lived. The business has an account with the BSP bank, and the cheque book was kept inside the business office.
On different occasions between the month of September 2019 to April 2020, the defendant forged Mr Hafoka’s signature on the cheques before she cashed out the money at BSP bank.
She then deposited the money into her own bank account. A total of 43 cheques were cashed by the defendant amounting to $18,189.60.
During this time the owner of the business was in Australia. He noticed the irregularities in the account and contacted the BSP bank. He was informed by the bank that it was the defendant who had cashed the cheques and had deposited the money into her own bank account.
Hafoka lodged a complaint with Police and the defendant was arrested and charged.
By the time the defendant was arraigned her natural parents had already started to make payments to the bank and had arranged with the bank that they will pay $500 every month until the total of the money stolen was paid in full.
The bank had reimbursed Mr Hafoka of the money taken by the defendant and they agreed to the arrangement for the defendant and her parents to pay back the money to the bank.
‘Ofa told the probation officer that the offending commenced when she began dating her boyfriend. She forged the cheques and cashed the money out to cater for her boyfriend’s expenses and also for her own needs.
She told the officer she knew what she was doing was wrong but believed that if her uncle found out he would forgive her because she is her fa’ētangata.
However, when her adopted uncle found out about what she did he broke off all ties with the defendant and demanded that his sister and husband removed ‘Ofa from his house.
‘Ofa told the probation officer that she has now gone through the process of the court and has not only brought shame upon herself and her family but her actions have also ruined the relationship she had with her adopted family.
Justice Langi fully suspended ‘Ofa’s sentence for one year on the conditions that she is not to commit any offence punishable by imprisonment for the period of her suspension. That ‘Ofa is placed on probation for the period of her suspension. She is to undertake and complete the Salvation Army Life Skills program. The defendant is to complete 80 hours of community service under the direction of the probation office and to report to the Probation Office by Monday 1 February 2021.
Na’e toloi malu’i angalelei kakato e tautea ngāue pōpula māhina ‘e 15 ‘o Lolina ‘ofa ta’u 24 ‘o Tokomololo ;i ha ta’u ‘e taha, hili ‘a ‘ene hā ‘i he Fakamaau’anga Lahi’ faka’ilo ki he hia ko e kaiha’a, fakamo’oni loi mo ngāue’aki ha ngaahi pepa kuo fakamo’oni loi’i ‘i he ‘ilo’ilo pau. Ko e hili ‘eni hono toutou toho ‘e ‘Ofa ha sieke ‘e 43 ne ne fakamo’oni loi’i ai e hingoa e taha ‘a’ana ‘a e pisinisi ‘i Tokomololo ko e ‘Lyfe Apparel and Signage’. Ko e ‘ouna ‘o e pisinisi’ ko Sonatane Hafoka. Na’e fe’unga e pa’anga katoa ne kesi ta’etotonu heni ‘e ‘Ofa mo e $18,189.60. Ne fakahoko ‘eni ‘oku ‘i ‘Aositelēlia ‘a Hafoka ‘a ia ‘oku nofo pe ia ai. Ne fakatokanga’i ‘e Hafoka ‘oku ‘i ai e fe’amokaki ngali kehe ‘i he tu’unga fakapa’anga ‘o ‘ene ‘akauni ‘o ne lāunga ai ki he pangikē BSP ‘i Tonga ‘o ‘ilo ko ‘Ofa ne ne fai ‘a e ngāue pango’ ni. Na’e pusiaki ‘a ‘Ofa ‘e ha ongomātu’a ko e tamai’ ko ‘ene fa’ētangata mo’oni. Ko e mali ‘ene fa’ētanga’ ko e tuofefine ia ‘o Hafoka. Ne iku totongi fakafoki ‘e he pangikee’ e pa’anga ‘a Hafoka hili ha’anau alea mo e ongo mātu’a totonu ‘a ‘Ofa’ te na tā fakafoki kotoa ange ‘aki ‘a e $500 he māhina.