Federal trial for Samoan couple accused in million-dollar fraud scheme in the US moved to next year


The federal trial of a Samoan couple residing in Utah, accused in a fraud scheme where they are accused of stealing millions, is now continued to early next year, after the defense request was approved last week by U.S District Court Judge Howard C. Nielson, Jr.

Samoa News reports this is the fourth continuation of the trial for Misiona Patane, 57 — a.k.a, Papalii Patane, a.k.a, Junior Patane — and his wife, Lavinia Patane, 54 — a.k.a Lavinia Tuiatua.

The couple is accused of defrauding one set of victims out of $1.25 million dollars, along with a related scheme to defraud a “vulnerable adult” out of $2.4 million.

According to the indictment, Misiona and Lavinia Patane are charged with two counts of bank fraud and three counts of money laundering, while Misiona Patane is separately charged with four counts of wire fraud, six counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of kidnapping. (See Samoa News edition Jan. 10, 2022 for details.)

The request for continuation of trial was made by attorneys’ representing Misiona Patane, who remains in custody since his arrest last year, while his wife — who is not in custody and has not indicated any opposition to the requested continuance.

In granting the defense motion on Oct. 14, Judge Nielson observed that Misiona Patane is detained and agrees the proposed continuance is necessary and that the defense will not be hindered or prejudiced by the delay.  Additionally, the federal prosecutor does not object to the continuance.

“The ends of justice support the requested delay” of trial from Nov. 07 this year to Mar. 07 of next year, the judge said in the three-page decision, which also states that the defense counsel has reviewed some of the discovery documents received from the government.

However, due to the voluminous nature of the discovery, defense counsel needs additional time to carefully review the evidence, the decision says. The defense also believes that more evidence is forthcoming.

“Defense counsel and his investigator need the additional time to interview potential witnesses and confer with Mr. Patane regarding potential motions to file in this case,” the judge said. “The continuance is necessary to give Mr. Patane’s counsel the reasonable time necessary for effective trial preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.”

Since Samoa News first reported on this case early this year, there remains a lot of local and off-island interest — especially in Utah and Hawaii — on the outcome of the case.