Pastor gets probation for stealing from disabled veteran • Long Beach Post News

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Reverend Misi Tagaloa did not contest the criminal theft of an elderly dependent and was promptly sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service general.

Tagaloa also agreed to repay $96,000 he had siphoned off from Air Force veteran Phillip Campbell, a schizophrenic man in his 60s who was no longer able to care for himself.

The negotiated sentence is significantly less than the three years in prison a judge previously said she was likely to hand out to Tagaloa if he pleaded guilty. The state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, said the decision to offer Tagaloa a probationary sentence “is consistent with his decision to accept responsibility for his offense.”

Tagaloa, who ran twice for Long Beach City Council, is well known locally as the pastor of the Second Samoan Church. He has long run a homeless ministry out of the facility on the outskirts of downtown and even shelters homeless men in a house next to the shrine.

After spending nearly two decades looking for him, Campbell’s family discovered he was living in this home under the care of Tagaloa, who had taken control of Campbell’s finances, including his $2,900 monthly VA benefit. .

After a brief reunion with his family in 2017, Campbell disappeared from the house again. When relatives filed a missing person report, police discovered that someone was still making withdrawals from Campbell’s account.

Phillip Campbell in Long Beach surrounded by Patrice Stevens (bottom), Madena Stevens (second from right) and Patrice’s children. Photo courtesy of Madena Stevens.

Campbell eventually checked himself into a convalescent hospital in Gardena, but law enforcement continued to examine his finances.

According to the testimony of an investigator, they found tens of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses, including $11,305 to pay off Tagaloa’s credit cards; at least $11,000 in rent, donations, and tithes to the Second Samoan Church in Tagaloa; $3,319 in cash withdrawals; $5,506 to an online stock trading service; and thousands of dollars spent in clothes and clothing stores.

In August 2020, the California Attorney General’s office charged Tagaloa with counts of grand larceny and theft of an elderly dependent. Campbell died the following month at an aged care facility in Palos Verdes where his children were able to visit him during his final days.

Tagaloa said he spent money from Campbell’s account believing it was in the best interests of Campbell and his faith community.

“I made a few mistakes, but that doesn’t make me a bad person,” Tagaloa said during his sentencing hearing on Monday.

Speaking to Judge Judith L. Meyer, Tagaloa said he’s spent a lot of time thinking about the case since it “hit the media” in a story reported by the Long Beach Post, “and it’s not easy given what I do for a living.” .”

The pastor said many of the facts in the case were presented in a ‘suboptimal manner, which may jeopardize my…my sense of what is good, but I also have other considerations. . I think of my wife, my children and the community I serve.

For these reasons, Tagaloa said he agreed to accept the prosecutor’s probation offer and not contest.

“Facts are always open to interpretation,” Judge Judith L. Meyer replied. “But I respect that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions.”

During his two years of probation, Tagaloa will also be barred from serving as a trustee or guardian of veterans. He is also prohibited from performing his 200 hours of community service in veterans organizations or churches.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the state attorney general’s office.

Pastor says he was helping disabled veteran; prosecutors say he stole $102,000

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