14 Aug 2013

Trial for FBI conman begins in American Samoa

12:49 pm on 14 August 2013

The trial of an American Samoa man accused of conning 25 people into working for him by claiming he was associated with the Federal Bureau of Investigations opens in the high court in Pago Pago today.

Alatise Fonoti is on trial for two counts of stealing.

His co-defendant Aperaamo Levi has pleaded guilty to one count of stealing and is expected to be called to the stand as a government witness.

The government alleges that Fonoti and Levi claimed they are part of the local FBI office, which closed last year, and that they had funding to hire workers to clear out a section of Fonoti's property for construction.

Some of the workers say they worked unpaid for Fonoti and Levi for five weeks and others for three months.

The workers say that when they complained the defendants would give them a warning, claiming that if anyone questioned them, the FBI would throw them in jail and their families would never see them again.